UNIZULU Choir Launches Two Upcoming Albums

| A node for African thought

UNIZULU Choir Launches Two Upcoming Albums

UNIZULU Choir Launches Two Upcoming Albums

The University of Zululand (UNIZULU) Choir has once again raised the profile of the University.

It has recorded not one, but two studio albums, titled “uMkhonto ka Shaka” and “In Collaboration With”, which will be released on multiple digital music platforms on Friday, 1 March 2024.

These two records were launched this evening (Friday, 23 February 2024) at Umfolozi Hotel Casino Convention Resort in Empangeni. A cheery and intimate outdoor affair, the launch was attended by an animated audience comprising UNIZULU senior management and staff members, media personnel and representatives of Umkhanyakude District Municipality and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.

Professor Allucia Shokane, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, was deeply moved by the individuals who showed their support to the choir. “Thank you for taking time to be here. We hope you will enjoy being with us. We hope you will play our music. We hope you will make us famous,” she said.

The musical projects, according to Head of the Department of Creative Arts Prof Fikelepi Twani, are very special because they align perfectly with UNIZULU’s vision to become a node for African thought.

“The node for African thought: that’s the strategic existence of the University of Zululand now. Everything that is about African thinking, African research, indigenous ways of teaching and learning, indigenous ways of performing- the entire indigenous space, we are occupying it as University of Zululand,” she highlighted.

“There are many other recordings of the UNIZULU Choir but this one is special because it is advancing the node for African thought. I think you can hear the types of songs they are singing; they are taking us back to our grassroots. This is important in that they are now showcasing how the creative arts can be a powerful tool in advancing the node for African thought. Just by singing the songs, you can hear that it is an Africanised act they are performing.”

Prof Twani further emphasised how even the choir members’ outfits today were a response to the strategic objective of the University which pertains to Africanisation, indigenisation and decolonisation of the curriculum.   

Unpacking the creative process of making the albums, choir conductor Dr Bhekani Buthelezi said: “With ‘uMkhonto ka Shaka’, the creative vision was that these old songs must sound fresh and feel young, must be familiar yet with a twist, and the vocal range stretched so that it can reflect the greatness of our choir while also sounding easy on the ear. We had the best music director, Syanqoba Mthethwa, who is also a music director for Joyous Celebration. He excelled as expected.

With the second album, the brief was that we sing these songs in a way that no choir has done before. We worked very hard under the guidance and mentorship of Dr Lindelani Mkhize whose ear is extremely sharp and arrangement skills are unmatched. It was such an honour working with him.”

After such a vivid picture had been painted for the audience, it would have been remiss of the choir not to tentalise it with a few songs. The audience was taken on a spiritual, musical journey through three traditional songs from “uMkhonto ka Shaka”. The nostalgic sounds were paired with popular contemporary dance moves which brought about a freshness to the performance. The choristers thereafter flaunted their vocal skills through four songs from their second album. Umona, featuring Shayezakhe, mirrored the moral decay in society through its poignant message about people backstabbing others due to envy. As if to offer a solution to the previous song’s theme, Lamino, performed with Zinhle Luhlongwane, was a refreshing reminder that all we need is love. Listening to the jazzy sound with its mid-tempo was like taking a short trip to Sophiatown, the hub of jazz culture. The final two songs, Ngimnyama and Igugu Lami, with artists Ntandoyenkosi and Nonzwakazi crowned the moment. They tackled the black consciousness theme, promoting self-love and taking pride in all things African – which is closely linked to some of UNIZULU’s strategic objectives.

  • Naledi Hlefane

Picture: James Thwala