Rwanda- The month of May leaves quite a lasting memory, amidst the enjoyment of live music for most Rwandans. For the first time, the past week ushered in South African female musicians Zahara Bulelwa and Berita Khumalo, who at different occasions graced Kigali stages, where they left vast in amusement, yet with core lessons on African ancestry.
Zahara’s performance, took place at Kigali Serena hotel on May 25, at the Kigali Jazz Junction, a monthly event, which gives stage to the celebration of Jazz and other live music genres, while Berita’s was at the Kigali Live and Unplugged, a fully live music event, which took place on May 26 in at the Kigali Exhibition Village.
Special about the two artistes is how they are both Afro-Soul musicians, a genre rarely adopted by mainstream broadcast media
Khumalo’s Kigali performance just concluded her three-week East African tour, which follows countries Kenya and Uganda too, where she has held performances too. To her, this move has more been of great inspiration and learning, “It has been the most gratifying experience, since learning more of my culture, history of my brothers and sisters, from the same continent has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she explains.
Holding excellent vocals and guitar skills, Khumalo roots from a deeper musical nurturing. Conquering Spirit , which is her debut album, earned her several awards and nominations, with singles like Sukundixhesha, Tell me You love Me, Thandolwethu, and Notyatyambo gaining her a audience beyond South African boarder, hence earning her accolades in South Africa and in Zimbabwe, where she is born, like Best African Pop Album at the 2013 Metro Awards, while she was also nominated for Best Afro Soul Artist at the 8th annual Zimbabwe Achievers Awards in South Africa (SATMA) too.
Having borrowed inspiration from the late legendary Miriam Makeba, and later worked with a variety of local and international Afro Soul artistes such as Hugh Masekela Oliver and Mtukudzi, which has built her a great reputation not only in South Africa, but all over Africa.
On stage, adorned in African inspired wear of a Xhosa Duke, and African print outfit, Khumalo complements this all with sounds, which take her audience to sail into Pan African sounds. Her Kigali audience, which gathered at the Kigali Exhibition Village tasted an intimate feel of her music. With her guitar, Berita
Through her songs, Khumalo not only sings Xhosa, but borrows into the Kiswahili language too, “As Africans, we are people who have emotions, love rhythm, dance and melody,” she states, “I’ve seen my music touch people of different races and nationalities, which matters,” she adds. While in Kigali she sang Pagama Africa, Sopinda Pitibane (Till We Meet Again) among others.
With Afro-soul barely a recognized genre across the African continent- where it isn’t represented through mainstream broadcast media, yet closely unheard of in Rwanda, the two female musicians stand true to it. Zahara expresses concern for the quality of music being promoted by media across generations today.
Khumala admits how people have different tastes, “You might not necessarily play Afro-Soul music in a club, but on a Sunday afternoon, when you are chilled, having lunch with family, that would be the kind of music to play,” She remarks. To her and 50 years down the line, Afro-soul music will be the thought of genre, when it comes to memories.
Zahara too admits how Soul is a real gateway to people’s hearts. With inspiration rooting deeper, she acknowledges how the genre serves to truly inspire.