Nomadic future folklore duo Dumama and Kechou’s debut album Buffering Juju celebrates the fight and memory of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela whose passing in 2018 still hurts. Nickita Maesela embarked on a journey to listen to their music offering
Dumama and Kechou
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Press play and the first thing you hear on nomadic future folk artist duo Dumama and Kechou’s debut album is the sound a break of dawn. It’s a sound that is very familiar to our mothers whose call time for the day comes when everyone is still asleep.
The song Leaving Prison is an ode to liberator and freedom fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s time in prison. It ends with the sounds of keys turning in a gate, followed by a crackling fire sound, noisy children and cows mooing – forming the transition into track two.
It sets the tone for the album Buffering Juju, a curation of eight tracks – eight parts of a story that moulds a memoir on the endurance of African womxn in the struggle for liberation.
As I press play, my mother starts singing along to the first song: “Bahleli bonke entilongweni, bahleli bonke kwaNogqongqo.” Loosely translated it means: “They are sitting together in prison.”
My mom tells me she remembers her older siblings coming into the house, singing this struggle song after a day of protesting in the streets against South Africa’s racist regime in the 1970s.
“The narrative unravels as a piece of magical realism informed by South African folklore and reality, detailing a woman’s liberation story where the characters shift shape and traverse multiple realms, deploying various iterations of their power or lack thereof,” wrote the duo’s label Mushroom Hour Half Hour in a press release.
The listener’s journey involves the unearthing of histories through percussions and melodies sung in alto, treated with boundless care. These rich tones resonate across the album, forming a hypnosis shaped by the rise of matriarchs and the dreams of unsung womxn heroes.
“I reached a point, a threshold where the body could not take the pain anymore. Those were the most beautiful moments. I got up … and I started fighting all over again.”
This is just one of the audio extracts featured on the album – Mam’ Winnie speaking about her imprisonment during the fight against apartheid on the track Wessi Walking Mama.
The duo crafts magical realism with soulful electronic sound beds. Dumama (Gugulethu Duma), on the vocals, plays the uhadi and says she fiddled with some synth ideas with producer Dion Monti. Kechou (Kerim Melim Becker) plays all the instruments, apart from those played by a session musician family.
The album revels, through mixed synthesised sounds with traditional instruments, the pair’s collaboration with Dumama’s singing in isiXhosa that reverberates powerful ancestral callings.
Dumama and Kechou’s debut album is a sonic psycho-spiritual journey that reminds us of the sacrifices and the power that is the African womxn, who has been and continues to be the lover and fighter leading households, communities, movements and countries.