Nobuntu: An all-female a cappella group

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ONE of the important aspects of celebrating International Day of the Girl-Child on October 11 is that it gives the much needed focus for the world to address challenges girls face and also to promote girls’ empowerment.

Empowerment of girls comes in different forms, but a more striking one is having women in different societies telling and showing by example that the girl-child can successfully participate in male-dominated circles.

In Zimbabwe, some women musicians are using music not only to represent the girl-child but to highlight that women can achieve greatness in genres that have being dominated by male artistes. 

One group which is doing so is Nobuntu, a quintet a cappella vocal ensemble made up of young women from Bulawayo.

Nobuntu

Established in 2011, the group has ventured and made it in a space mostly dominated by men.

The female musicians are effectively using music to portray the economic, political as well as socio-cultural aspects of Zimbabwe’s heritage.

Recently, Nobuntu announced a US tour beginning this month up to November.

The tour, their second this year, will see the group performing in 25 venues across the US and these include universities, theatres and museums, among others.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Duduzile Sibanda said the tour is an opportunity for them to spread and educate the US about Southern African culture and traditions.

The tour presents an opportunity for cultural exchange, making Nobuntu an ambassador of local traditions and culture.

“We are on a two month tour in the US. It is one of our annual US tours and we will perform in 15 States.

It is really a busy schedule for us and it means work, work, work at last! After the COVID -19 wave, we are happy to be travelling again.

It also gives us another opportunity to spread messages of love hope and peace as well as to educate and inform the US about Southern Africa, our music origins, culture and traditions,” she said.

Sibanda also highlighted that the tour will also avail the group with the opportunity to showcase new songs and dances.

“We definitely have new songs on this tour; more jazzy with a touch of imbube.

The dances to be performed are isitsthikitsha (Ndebele), isetape (Tswana ) and amabhiza (Kalanga). It is going to be a wholesome show,”she added.

According to Sibanda, the name Nobuntu is derived from an African concept that values humility, love, purpose, unity and family from a woman’s perspective.

It is a very powerful group that identified a gap on the musical landscape by realising the absence of an all female group in a cappella across the country.

Sibanda also highlights that Nobuntu’s collection is a fusion of traditional Zimbabwe rooted music with some Afro-jazz, Gospel and imbube crossovers in pure voices with minimal percussions and traditional instruments like the mbira and some dance movements.

The group is a multi-award winner and represents a unique generation of women singers who celebrate and preserve their culture, beauty and heritage through art.

To them, being in the industry involves celebrating the capabilities of women and showcasing what girls and women can do.

History of the involvement of women in the local music industry highlights the plight of women on their journey to be appreciated in the society.

Nobuntu, therefore, believes music is one of the most crucial and original wheels of change that can address issues of racial, tribal, religious, gender, economic and political boundaries.

Groups, like Nobuntu, are evidence that women can also have a huge impact in their communities and sectors such as the music industry.

Music has been a part of African women’s lives since time immemorial. Zimbabwean women sang songs to communicate and express their feelings or celebrate life changes.

During pre-colonial times, women used song to cope with the day-to-day challenges of life, to manage their daily chores, deal with their emotions, air their grievances, challenge oppression and celebrate womanhood.

A fusion of their voices, energy and amplified performance on stage is an experience that communicates a message of resilience in womanhood.

The release of their debut album in 2013, titled ‘Thina’,immediately took them beyond borders to countries such as Austria, Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic; playing in concert halls, theatres and festivals such as Voice Mania in Vienna and Trans-vocal in Frankfurt-Order.

Nobuntu also have two more 

abums — ‘Ekhaya’ and ‘Obabes Bembude

— to their name.

So influential and powerful has been their art that the group has frequented big stages across the Americas and Europe, playing in countries such as the US, Canada, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Austria, Belgium,  Italy, Mozambique and Eswatini, among others.

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