Isicathamiya alive and well

Afrika Mamas. Picture: Phumlani S Langa
Afrika Mamas. Picture: Phumlani S Langa

The inaugural Cothoza Awards were dished out in Durban last night amid a fine display of tradition, writes Phumlani S Langa

A cappella and isicathamiya are traditional Zulu music genres that are generally loved by the older generation, but somewhat shunned by young people.

Despite this, the first annual Cothoza Music Awards – unfortunately dubbed the Comas – were held at The Playhouse Company in Durban’s CBD last night.

This is the first time that an awards platform aimed at this avenue of music has been held and so the awards took on the form of an honorary evening, where a select few acts were celebrated.

The event was born of a dream by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the powerhouse of isicathamiya and mbube music. The theme for the three-day celebration was “mayibuye emasisweni – return to the core”.

Black Mambazo lead singer Sibongiseni Shabalala told City Press about how he has been a member of the band since he was a boy and his father, Joseph, composed songs for the band.

He even had an early-morning practice regimen as a boy. One of the awards of the night was named after Joseph.

In conjunction with the awards, there have also been other initiatives by Black Mambazo to spread the word about culturally based genres.

“We started a mobile academy where we go to schools and the community, and we speak to the youth and teach them the music so that if they one day enter the music business, they will know how to go about it,” he said.

The laid-back leading man of Mambazo stressed the importance of education: “The other day, we hosted a masterclass with jazz player Nduduzo Makhathini, who is studying at the University of Fort Hare, so that he could share what he has learnt with the children.

“These awards are a tool that we are using to promote this kind of music – cothoza and a cappella. It was my father’s dream to develop this music so that it could compete on a global stage.”

LadySmith Black Mambazo. Picture: Cebile Ntuli

Accolades included the Solomon Linda Award in honour of the creator of the legendary song Mbube, who received high praise last night, and an Imbokodo Award recognising women in the field. The inaugural gong went to Afrika Mamas.

Speaking on behalf of the Mamas, Mam’ Ntombi Lushaba said her group had been the only all-woman isicathamiya band in the country since 1998, yet recognition was only now being bestowed upon them.

“We’ve been honoured in so many places – China, the UK and even Belgium, but not here at home,” she told City Press.

The band, consisting of Bhe Shandu, Minki Khumalo, Sibongile Nkosi, Zukiswa Majozi, Nhlo Dube and Lushaba, will head to Europe in November for a tour.

It plans to teach the art of isicathamiya in local schools with the backing of government.

Asked about her views on youthful bands looking to their roots and reviving an age-old artistic practice, she said: “I get so happy when I see the kids doing our music, which ties into the theme of the event – a return to our cultural ways.”

Asked if the band has more fans overseas than at home, she replied: “This is a painful question to answer. A lot of the time, kids run away from this kind of music, so I’m really proud of people like The Soil and The Legacy. We are fighting to remind the youth not to forget their roots and to pass this on to the next generation.”

The emergence of Durban-based The Legacy has been somewhat of an intrigue. These brothers are young and vibrant, and could quite easily share the stage with a cappella band The Soil, who performed at the awards.

Other legends who were recognised were Alexius Buthelezi, Paulos Msimango, Milton Mazibuko, Herdman Shabalala, Victor Mkhize, Colenso Abafana Benkokhelo, King Star Brothers, Dlamini Home Defenders, Newcastle Five Roses, Easy Walkers, Xolo Home Boys and The Playhouse Company.

The evening’s proceedings were handled by Masoja Msiza, the leading man of Uzalo, the nation’s most-watched TV show, who is as charismatic as his role as Nkunzi. Before the event, City Press bumped into the star with the deep voice, who said Afrika Mamas was his favourite act in the genres.

Of course, Durban’s A-list rocked up to this uniquely eThekwini event. There were a few members of the Durban-based soap Imbewu: The Seed, led by grande dame of local drama Thembi Mtshali. Their rivals and industry favourites from Uzalo were represented by Baby Cele, Dawn Thandeka King and Nelisa Mchunu.


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