30th October 2020:
While checking if any of my favourite local ladies had released anything new over the past month I came across a name that I wasn’t familiar with, Buhlebendalo Mda (aka Buhle). Although she has been a part of the local music scene for that last ten years with the award-winning acapella group ‘The Soil’, she has now taken the big step and released her debut album, ‘Chosi’.
I was blown away by her voice and the emotion that she carries in her songs. Not that I can understand a word, but it really doesn’t matter, the music is enough. She describes her music as Isigqi Sakwantu, a mixture of all sorts of African sounds from which she has created her own style.
Bhule was born in Soweto in 1996 and formed ‘The Soil’ when she was still at high school. They went on to perform globally with their three award-winning albums reaching double-platinum sales. Her solo album has been four years in the making and is a work of discovery and spirituality, but more of that shortly
To start today’s Buhlebendalo Mda threesome of songs is ‘Mdali’ and it comes with an extremely powerful and chilling video that, language barriers aside, tells a powerful story. It was directed and produced by Botshelo Mondi. I think you’ll be amazed. 😎
Bhule appreciates the opportunities that ‘The Soil’ gave her. Apart from the album sales, 2013 – 2015 saw her perform with her acapella group in New York & LA, Paris, UK, Russia and China. It was around this time that she decided to follow her ancestral calling and train as a Sangoma. Although she still performs with ‘The Soil’ she knew it was time to follow her path.
She started thinking about a solo album at this time, but it was a new journey for her. “I felt it was time to tell my stories and hope that I have reached that point” she said in an interview with Glamour “I remember saying a short prayer when we were wrapping up with the recording that I hoped the album would reach people in a space of openness and silence and then the pandemic came. That made me think the universe was listening” Mda said.
Amongst her influences, she includes two greats, Busi Mhlongo and Brenda Fassie, both sadly no longer with us, with whom she feels a shared thread of African spirituality. Spirituality is important for her; “I want to grow spiritually and to be like Credo Mutwa, where humans find spiritual upliftment from me. I just want to heal, that’s all.”
For today’s second song I am honouring both Buhlebendalo Mda and Brenda Fassie with her remarkable rendition of ‘Too Late for Mama’, which was a big hit for Brenda in 1989. 😎
Apart from her music Buhlebendalo Mda is also a known gender activist and her debut album ’Chosi’ is inspired by the generations of women who have had to struggle against violence and inequality throughout their lives. “I’m trying to send out prayers to the universe and grievances to people in power to finally hear our cry as women. I’m speaking healing unto self so it transcends to the broken souls. I’m just inviting people to my healing space” she said in a recent interview.
The state of gender-based violence in South Africa is an ongoing fear for her. This led to an unfortunate incident in a Johannesburg parking lot recently when she mistook an over-excited male fan who rushed up to her as an assailant. She lashed out at him which resulted in assault charges being laid against her. It is a sad statement as to the underlying fear that women still feel in this ‘enlightened age’.
‘Chosi’ is an apt title for her 13-track album. The word is Nguni for ‘the sign a story is to be told’ as well as a word that symbolises the manifestation of our hope and dreams. In Bhule’s words, “I am trying to tell a story to everyone who is willing and open to receive these messages. I am not just telling this story to the people, but I am also telling it to myself because I have never walked this journey before. I am sharing my story of healing.”
Now I know a little more about Bhule and have subscribed to her platform and channels I look forward to sharing more music from this South African gem as it happens. Thanks for joining me for a taste of local music. Here’s the closing song for today, ‘Bayangihleka’. 😎
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.
The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.
Words © Andrew Knapp 2020