Tag Archives: World Music

Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata Diawara is a favourite from the World Music scene. Those of you that are new to my blog, I like to post some of the music I listen to from across the world. If you have guessed it, you are right, I don’t always understand what they are singing about, but musicians all over the world share one universal language which my heart understands. I’m sure you can too.

Born on Ivory Coast to Malian parents, Fatoumata Diawara moved to France to pursue her music. The guitarist became critically acclaimed not only for singing, but song-writing and performing in movies. I love her music, so I hope you will  enjoy it too.

A Haunting Songbird

In 1990, Wassoulou singer Sangare became a superstar in West Africa with Moussolou, which sold an astonishing 250,000 copies (many more were likely pirated). She received much of her attention for writing and singing lyrics that specifically addressed concerns of women in modern West African society, such as the conflict between marriage and personal freedom; not a shocking subject in the Western world, perhaps, but a pioneering one for the popular music of the region. Western listeners who can’t understand the lyrics will be drawn in by her mellifluous vocals and smooth, circular compositions, which use full arrangements without sounding over-produced. Both traditional instruments and electric guitars/basses are prominently used (without getting in each other’s way) on her 1993 release Ko Sira, her most widely available recording in the U.S.

Born to Sing

I love World Music and have always found the South African music very lifting. Recently, I discovered the music of Peki Emelia Nothembi Mkhwebane from South Africa. She is an award-winning Ndebele musician. Her singing, dancing and dressing embraced a multifaceted picture of the culture of the Ndebele in South Africa. The origins of the Ndebele tribe are not known, although they are generally recognised as forming part of the Nguni tribes of Southern Africa. Nothembi has travelled the world with her beautiful music. It is the right moment for me to share a beautiful thing (her music) with you because I have to return to work tomorrow.

Profile of Peki Emelia “Nothembi” Mkhwebane

Peki Emelia “Nothembi” Mkhwebane was born in Carolina in Mpumalanga on 1 January 1953. Orphaned at the age of five, she was raised by her grandparents who could not afford her formal education. Most of her early life was spent looking after her grandfather’s cattle and sheep – their limited means of livelihood at that time. It was no mean task for a girl.

Mkhwebane’s family loved music and nurtured her first love for Ndebele songs. Her grandmother taught her to play a reed flute, while her sister exposed her to isikumero. Her uncle taught her to play a home-made guitar. In this hub of Ndebele music and culture, Mkhwebane learned a lot about the richness of her culture and later started a musical group called “Izelamani zako Nomazilyana”, which performed at cultural gatherings and weddings.

With time, she bought a keyboard and guitar to compose songs, which she recorded. Despite her burgeoning achievements, she still struggled to find a recording company, particularly as one of the major snags was her illiteracy, which proved to be a hindrance in securing proceeds from the recording breakthroughs.

Never one to despair, and propelled by her passion and talent, Mkhwebane subsequently defeated most of these obstacles to become a world-renowned, prolific singer and performer of Ndebele music. She has travelled extensively abroad, performing in countries such as the United States of America (USA), Austria, Germany, Portugal, Australia and France. In 1988, she performed in New York and London and received an award for the Best Ndebele Song.

(Information courtesy of The Presidency)

World Music – A tribute to Mama Yangyang

I love music from all over the world. Having grown up in a small fishing village outside Lae, Papua New Guinea, music and dance is part of our rhythmic flow of planting, gathering and harvesting for our families. Songs are composed in dreams. They talk about people, our ancestors, and our life.  Music and dance celebrates us as people. It creates and reassures us of our cultural identity.

From as early as three-years-old I had my own dancing costumes. I sang and danced We-e Si-ing, Bu-sim Awe-e, and Sabic. These are types of dancing. I was already learning to make my own costumes from leaves, shells and other natural materials. I was singing and dancing with my aunties. My aunty Yangyang, her nickname for “Yellow” because she was born with pale skin; was one of the best dancers and singers in our village.

My aunty Yellow died two weeks ago. I pay tribute to her and her amazing life which I was part of. Like most women in my family, she could take and master tasks meant for men as well as women. She was fit and strong and very hard-working. Mama Yangyang taught me so many skills; from fishing, gardening, crafting to dancing and singing.

My life is rich with knowledge and skills because Aunty ‘Yellow’, my mother, grandmother and many others have taught me so much about our culture.  These women gave me the fabric of my being and my passage which connects me to nature and the earth. Living in a western society is so different. It feels lonely and isolated sometimes. I miss those days when we all, three generation of girls and women, singing and dancing together.

In the past month, I have been taking two courses in the arts, one being World Music. World Music is a term which may evolve as time passes, but at the moment, it refers to music that is not western. The term “foreign” was used, but to me, western music is “foreign” so it just depends on who you are and how you look at it. World Music stirs a unique emotion in me. The music, whichever culture it comes from, reminds me of who I am and it connects me to my own people that I do not see often enough. All I need to do is close my eyes and I am there.

As past of daily rituals, people in many indigenous cultures sing and dance. This is such an uplifting and exhilarating part of life’s journey.

Here is a dedication to my Aunty Yellow and a small taster for those of you that do not know the African kora. In this clip the kora is being played by one few (rare) women players from Ghana, Sona Jobarteh. I hope you like her music.