His­tory gets

The founder of the KZN Ensem­ble keeps cul­ture alive and de­vel­ops it for a new gen­er­a­tion

Mail & Guardian - - Music & Books - Kwanele Sosibo

‘Around 1985, when I was about six years old, we would herd cat­tle in the hills,” says vo­cal­ist and cul­tural re­searcher Mbuso Khoza. “I grew up with boys who could sing and lead songs par­tic­u­larly well. You would find that, in the af­ter­noons, we would have im­fun­delo for imigonqo or wed­dings. A lot of the songs I knew then I learnt there. These were like prac­tice and prep ses­sions for spe­cific oc­ca­sions.”

Khoza’s mother had an ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of amahubo, which were essen­tially his­tor­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal doc­u­ments of Zulu cul­tural life. “If it was stormy weather, she would col­lect us into the house and start singing amahubo akwa Khoza.”

Khoza, a con­venor and leader of the KZN Her­itage Ensem­ble and descen­dant of Nt­shing­wayo kaMa­hole Khoza, be­lieves that, be­cause of ur­ban­i­sa­tion, there are fewer oc­ca­sions for peo­ple to be­come versed in song, par­tic­u­larly amahubo, than there were when he was grow­ing up. This is why he re­cruited mem­bers of his group from town­ships around KwaZulu-Natal.

“There are a few peo­ple who, for ex­am­ple, still do im­ihlonyane [a rite of pas­sage cer­e­mony for chil­dren],” says Khoza. “But if you go to kwaNon­goma or Eshowe and you ask some­one what ihubo lakubo is, they won’t be able to tell you. That knowl­edge had faded.”

Khoza, though, is not nec­es­sar­ily a purist about how these cul­tural trea­sures can and should be pre­served.

“When Amer­i­cans sing Swing Low Sweet Char­iot or other spir­i­tu­als, they still pre­serve the bluesy ap­proach to the mu­sic. Let’s say they are hon­our­ing Ella Fitzger­ald. You will find Gre­gory Porter do­ing a Nat King Cole song.

“So it is im­por­tant to safe­guard that cul­ture as it is and also open it up to other in­ter­pre­ta­tions like jazz or pop so that it reaches the pub­lic con­scious­ness and, through that, find a way for its essence to be safe­guarded.”

Khoza fine-tuned his ears to the de­tails of amahubo and the man­ner in which they can be rein­ter­preted at the cul­tural func­tions he at­tended in his youth.

“I used to go to royal events to find that most peo­ple, when they sing, they are in­audi­ble. So the youth lose in­ter­est be­cause they find the singing to be dirge­like and the elders

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.