The singer collaborates with Salif Keita
By Edward Tsumele
Afro-folklore music singer Simphiwe Dana from the very beginning of her career 16 years , has long since positioned her art within the realm of Afro cultural centricity, and as a result her identity as a musician was clear from the beginning.
Though gifted with a voice that is versatile and could easily be moulded to delivery in a variety of styles, for example Afro pop or jazz, the artist has consistently remained true to her authentic musical voice.
Although she has since delivered several albums touching on various themes and levels of lyrical depth to the market since her debut album, the critically acclaimed Zandisile, released in 2004, Dana has not shifted an inch from the essence of her aesthetics.
Her music touches the core and depth of African cultural heritage, and is easy to connect with for her loyal followers and those who are new to her sound simply because of its authenticity, that comes through whether she is singing about sadness or hope. Hers is the kind of music that stimulates the mind as opposed to driving one to the dance floor.
Not that it is not capable of. In fact it can easily induce both, triggering the impulse to dance as well as exercising one’s mental muscles, and not many musical styles currently on the market in South African can achieve that almost impossible feat. It is either you are driven to the dance floor or you resign yourself to just listening and enjoy the melody. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For her effort Dana no wonder has attracted as her followers over the years, hordes of followers on the continent, especially those intellectually inclined, real or imagined.
The music taps into the essence and depth of who one is as a human being, and it does not matter whether one is proficient in isiXhosa, the main language of her musical delivery. It is simply a good sound to the ear, well receivable by the human spirit and can indulge one’s intellect in a natural flow, as opposed to an invasive fashion. Such is the power of her musical content and gift.
I am not surprised how she managed to get one of the continent’s foremost folklore artists Salif Keita from Mali to collaborate with her in her latest album, Bamako, that she recorded in Mali and released in April this year. No doubt, this one ranks as one of her most important albums with regards to her career, but also with regards to her growth as a musician.
After all, one needs to be a serious musician to even imagine collaborating with such a legend, later alone have the courage to approach him. The fact that Dana has done so successfully, tells us that her standing and musical talent has deepened beyond anyone would have ever imagined would happen when she dropped that first album in 2004.
And therefore, when I was dropped the video for Bamako at the approach of the weekend, I knew that I had to create time to watch and listen to this one, especially during these difficult and uncertain times due to the coronavirus pandemic hovering in the air among us. One needs to listen to a musical sound that brings light that displaces the cloud of darkness that is steadily building up on the horizon.
Dana’s music video Masibambaneni off her new album Bamako, released this weekend does exactly that. It forces one to introspect and think hard about yourself, your space and role in life in the middle of this pandemic, a menace to public health, and a threat to our existence as human beings.
Essentially on this song in the video, the songstress has re-imagined and re-worked Keita’s famous song, Africa, featuring the Grammy award-winning legend himself.
Recorded in Bamako, Mali, the video shot by Dale Fortune tells a beautiful story on black beauty and how powerful we are united, and Africa needs that unity, now than ever before, because of the circumstances surrounding the threat to public health, with a potential to distabilise the fragile social security framework.
Instead of bringing despair to the audience, the Masibambaneni video gives hope and light, dispersing the dark cloud of hopelessness that is starting to gather in communities due to the uncertainties of our times.
For example, the video sees beautiful scenes of carefree children running wild in the open fields, on the streets with glee. It shows Dana making the music with Keita and his band at a studio while some showcase the beautiful songstress spotting big hair singing through the mic.
If one’s spirit cannot be uplifted by such potent scenes, I wonder what else can succeed. You can watch Masibambane here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCTSIhjo41U