and the Sound of isiZulu…

Code Words I use to protect the innocent can be found under the new page.


It may be redundant but SA 31 is awesome. After having a quiet month on Team KZN’s Whats App group, the other New Mexican randomly messages the group at 8 PM on a Saturday night about their epiphany. While listening to “the Circle of Life” they hear clicks…a Disney song was in isiZulu. Mind. Blown. This revelation turned into a spirited discussion about how the Lion King is a mishmash of African culture and different stories of betrayal from Hamlet to South Africa’s notorious King Shaka. In this process, I try to remember who actually sang the Zulu part. I always thought it was Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

If you have not listened to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, start with  “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” probably their most famous song with Paul Simon.

After most of SA 31 went to bed, I immediately share with the Math Teacher because if there is one thing my parents did well it is pass along great taste in music. They instilled my love for Paul Simon, so I knew they could put the Ladysmith Black Mambazo inquiry to rest. Turns out it was sung by Lebo M. a singer based out of Johannesburg. The conversation evolves into a discussion on what Caring Spaz (my sister) did to the Paul Simon CDs I could not find last summer, and the Math Teacher finds both Graceland and Shaka Zulu. Through the wonders of what’s app she plays clips from both.

The Shaka Zulu CD by Ladysmith Black Mambazo was initially a Christmas Gift. I was 8 and remember opening it in the hospital (the Manager’s birthday falls on Christmas Eve). This was my first introduction to South Africa beyond a shape on the map. Despite my geographic literally it was not until I moved to the same country…no province as Ladysmith that I realized Ladysmith Black Mambazo was named for the city. Granted this is from the same girl who despite having a Winnie the Pooh obsession since kindergarten, was unaware that Kanga and Roo’s names combined formed their Australian marsupial identity until 5th grade. However my geographic awareness should have picked up on the association before last week. Eish.

My favorite song from Shaka Zulu is Rain, Rain, Rain, Beautiful rain.

Saturday I asked my mother to play it for me, and Monday the dusty Drakensburg was overwhelmed with precipitation.

Mist, mist, mist, beautiful precipitation!

Mist, mist, mist, beautiful precipitation!

Even in the midst of something crappy like the AIDS pandemic or chronic water shortages, South Africans still have hope. Unfortunately I did not appreciate the music as a child. As a PCV in South Africa who lives in a valley represented by Shabalalas, the music has new meaning. This men’s group was formed during the dark years of apartheid and is still active. They dance (really well) and their melody personifies South Africa. A country that continues to softly shosholoza and continue melodies.

All the best/Ngikufisela okuhle kodwa,


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