Home Musicology Obabes beMbube: Nobuntu’s Musical Journey and Growth

Obabes beMbube: Nobuntu’s Musical Journey and Growth

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Nobuntu’s third offering, ‘Obabes beMbube’ is their definition. An assertion of their presence together, as African Women. Driven by their musical growth, deeper understanding, individual richness, they are challenging and redefining set norms. Nobuntu have journeyed to the roots of Imbube, a music genre that has embodied the Ndebele people of Southern Africa, to churn out these culturally rich songs. Through Imbube, the Bantu have expressed themselves, their cultures, ways and survival to the world and through this deliberate effort to write and compose Imbube, Nobuntu have preserved Ubuntu throughout time. Mothers of Ubuntu, these Five women whose image has said, “Yes! This is Africa!” Whose message has said we are love, we are peace, we are strength, we are children of the mother land….. and yes we are one.

 

Nobuntu is set to drop their third album titled Obabes beMbube. The album is a societal and spiritual journey of African humanity told from an African worldview. Throughout the album Nobuntu does express their maturity and growth in the music industry since their debut album. Reading the above statement extracted from the back cover of the album, one is taken through Nobuntu’s journey in words.

The 12 track 10th District produced album (with the 13th track being a bonus) opens up with ‘Cula’, a song that celebrates music and the impact it has within our societal landscape. The group acknowledges the emotional role of music within our lives; we are Africans after all, we sing despite the mood.

Encouraging hard work and preparedness is a communal norm and what better way to cultivate it than through song. ‘Ilanga’ is that motivational song that pushes one to get off their behind and do something with their life. Africa is always in motion; she does not encourage stagnancy on any level. I would recommend this song for morning drive radio presenters if they are keen on preaching that Vuka, Ugeze, Ubangene gospel.

‘Umusa’, our very own Urban Culxure favourite (Yes we did a poll and the entire office voted) is a social song that has a comic, yet moral element. What caught us was the statement “lapha elisinyeya khona sicel’umusa lothando”. Love and Mercy underline the theme in the song. It embodies the reality that as humans we need to radiate love, unity and mercy.

The album is riddled with Gospel songs and these include ‘Uyangiphoxa’, ‘Hossana’, ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Umalusi’ and ‘Avumile’. The percussions in ‘Hossana’ demystify the popular notion of conflicting religious values. The song form expresses what it means to be an African (through the percussions) and Christian (through the message). The same sentiments are expressed in ‘Umalusi’. Drums constantly remind us of who we are as a people and effectively communicate to the African DNA, it comes as no surprise that Nobuntu puts that into full effect.

The ‘Imbuberised’ version of the traditional Christian song ‘Amazing Grace’ would have made the slaves proud of their Ubuntu Heritage.The mellowing yet powerful vocals of the ladies is heavily felt in this song especially on the catchy “Amkelaaa” part; it just takes you to the church gates. It is inarguable that the song was well thought out before it was reformed into Imbube . We have a question though, what does ‘2-4-4’ mean? Is it a formation of some sort? We kept singing to the 2-4-4 part but did not have the slightest idea of what it meant. Please let us know or correct us in case we did not get that part correct, (we just pray it is a formation Manchester United can use).

Arguably what can be called the debut track of this album, the popular ‘Nobuntu Click Song’ is the most interactive song of the album. Most people who have graced a Nobuntu performance know what I am talking about and will definitely concur. The clicking sounds identifying with Nguni languages always have the non-Nguni speakers (and even some of us with lisps) tongue tied. The storyline is in folklore form narrating and personifying the journey of a frog. We have never been so proud of clicking our tongues like in this click song (speaking on behalf of those who can).

‘Asambeni’ has children singing “Let us make a circle, a big big circle” in the background. The track is evidently a celebration of life, love, happiness and nature through praise. This tribute to mother-nature carries a nostalgic sense for any 80s and 90s kid who experienced the privilege of playing summer night games under the full moonlight (that was before technology and social media came and ruined us). The percussions and vocals are initially discorded (probably on purpose) but that is the catchy artistic element before everything falls into rhythm again.

The Mahotela Queens ‘Town Hall’ rendition is at par with the legends original version. It comes as the bonus track of the album and we are sure if the Queens heard it, we would have a good collaboration on the way. What Nobuntu did to the song is very impressive. They made it their own but still maintained the weight and elegance of the original song. Speaking of rearrangements, Silele’ is one traditional song that we all know, but in the album it has been reinvented to a slower version. It is quite interesting that alternative singer Japhet Mlauzi, popularly known as Hwabaraty, did the works in this song.

‘Obabes beMbube’ is the song that boldly stamps Nobuntu’s presence in a predominantly patriarchal genre. WE ARE HERE!!! This is what the track simply asserts. Imbube has been one of the most male dominated genres and these ladies coming and occupying a big stake in this land is definitely a game changer. The quintet has been constantly referred to as Obabes be Mbube and they have definitely owned up to it. They have musically and professionally matured since they released their debut album “Thina” in 2011. No wonder why the entire album adopted the title of this track.

The 10th District album was Produced, Mixed and Edited by Dumisani Ramadu Moyo, Mastered by Andreas Luger in Steyregg Austria, the sound engineer behind it was Tswarelo Mothobe. The featured musicians are Mehluli Dube and Dumisani Ramadu Moyo on the percussions. A linear yet effective team made sure that the album Obabes beMbube is clean and well put together.

Ngugi Wa Thiongö in his book ‘Decolonising the mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature’ says, “language carries culture and culture carries the entire body of values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world.” Through their style of singing, use of their mother tongue and narrating the African way of life in an African perspective, Obabes beMbube are boldly declaring to the world that “YES THIS IS AFRICA!