SIMPHIWE DANA / “Simphiwe Dana Mixtape”
I don’t feel any great affinity with the current South African pop music style, Kwaito. I see myself more in the tradition of my people, the Xhosa, and I work with elements of gospel and jazz, but at the end of the day it is my very own language. —Simphiwe DanaSimphiwe Dana is a singular phenomenon. Born 1980 in the Transkei, Eastern Cape area of South Africa, Simphiwe was reared in a rural environment—no electricity, no running water, a life that was as rich in community as it was impoverished in modern amenities. Fortunately she did well in school. Some would say she was a nerd. She earned a national certificate in IT (information technology) and also took up graphic design at the college level after moving to Johannesburg as a young adult. Who would have thought she would become a much awarded vocalist whom some have dubbed the next Miriam Makeba. Her introduction to music was her mother’s singing and then the choral music in church. She remembers that her grandfather had a radio but batteries were expensive and he only used the radio to hear the news. She did not grow up hearing recorded music. Today her music is everywhere. She has just released her third album. The first two did extremely well but in less than two months Kulchur Noir is at the top of the world music charts in Europe and number one in Germany. She is celebrated well beyond South Africa. Her music is defiantly a hybrid. She sings mainly in Xhosa with occasional English lyrics. Her song structures defy easy categorization. Her music sounds both traditional and modern, both roots and popular, and something… something you can feel but barely describe.
The ANC has betrayed us. It has got to the stage that we need another revolution. Nothing has improved for us blacks. We must remember that we have heroes: courageous, strong-willed people, who sacrificed their lives for their convictions, people like Bantu Biko. —Simphiwe DanaShe is then an unlikely hero in that she never panders to popular tastes. The overall impression is that of a mystic, a shaman, a sangoma. Music for healing but music that also has a critical edge and speaks out boldly. As an activist she is saying: people, let us complete what we started, create what we need, dignify our struggles, acknowledge our hurts and move beyond. In some ways this is a very, very specific message for the people of Africa, in other ways this is what the whole world needs. And though only a miniscule number of the world’s population speaks Xhosa, we can all hear and feel her message. The Mixtape opens with five selections from Kulture Noir, and then two tracks each from her debut Zandisile and her sophomore release One Love Movement On Bantu Biko Street. We conclude with two selections from a live concert in Amsterdam. Here you can hear the progression of her music and also realize that although her studio recordings are marvels of intricate engineering in stitching together the various threads (the rhythms, the rootsy melodies, choral backing and Simphiwe’s own dark shining lead vocals), make no mistake she is also dynamic in performance. So, the lyrics are in Xhosa, the new album’s title acknowledges the English and French colonial influences and their mixed legacies, blessings and curses both intertwined and, some would argue, inseparable. But it is amazing how open her music is even as it is so specific and particular to the culture and experiences of her birth and upbringing.
I had to find myself, accept myself, strip all the layers out and stick to the core of who I am and what I believe. When you are sure of your identity and who you really are, it makes it so much easier to do so much more. —Simphiwe DanaThis is a rainbow of music issuing from a blackness conscious of itself as human at the core even as it is composed of particular kernels of African culture. Perhaps the atom is a better metaphor, three distinct elements put into motion and forming an indestructible essential. Or maybe this music is a cosmic vibration equally both material and metaphysical. You can listen to any particular cut and identify different elements. The magic is not in its diversity but rather in how the whole holds together, merges into such meaningful music. There is a clear, calm beauty in this music that bids you embrace yourself and rise, resplendently rise in truth, and in beauty—the truth of your particulars, the beauty of your specifics. —Kalamu ya Salaam Simphiwe Dana Mixtape Playlist Kulture Noir 01 “Hay Ihambo” 02 “Felas Azania” 03 “Mayine” 04 “Ingoma Ka Maine” 05 “Inkwenkwezi” Zandisile 06 “Zandisile” 07 “Troubled Soldier (Carlos Mombelli)” The One Love Movement On Bantu Biko Street 08 “Bantu Biko Street” 09 “The One Love Movement: Umthandazo Wase Afrika, Pt. 2 – Naphakade” Live in Amsterdam 10 "Track 03" - Simphiwe Concert 11 "Track 05" - Simphiwe Concert
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