Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Wentomb'unecala (with comments about this song's title)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video of award winning South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing the song "Wentomb'unecala". This post includes my speculation-using an online Zulu to English feature-about the English translation of the word "Wentomb'unecala".

This post also includes information about Ladysmith Black Mambazo & isicathamiya music which is the type of South African music that that group has popularized throughout the world.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"In 2013, Ladysmith Black Mambazo – led by founder and leader Joseph Shabalala – celebrates over fifty years of joyous and uplifting music that marries the intricate rhythms and harmonies of their native South African musical traditions to the sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel music. In those years, the a cappella vocal group has created a musical and spiritual alchemy that has touched a worldwide audience representing every corner of the religious, cultural and ethnic landscape. Their musical efforts over the past five decades have garnered praise and accolades within the recording industry, but also solidified their identity as a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Assembled in the early 1960s in South Africa by Shabalala – then a young farmboy turned factory worker – the group took the name Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Ladysmith being the name of Shabalala’s rural hometown; Black being a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo being the Zulu word for axe, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them. Their collective voices were so tight and their harmonies so polished that they were eventually banned from competitions – although they were welcome to participate strictly as entertainers."...

"What is Isicathamiya?

Even if you don’t know the name, you have probably heard isicathamiya (pronounced is-cot-a-ME-ya).

Isicathamiya choirs are made up of mostly of basses, joined by a couple tenors, an alto, and a lead voice. Their sound is recognizable by the emphasis of the bass voices. In South Africa, isicathamiya groups of 10 to 25 men perform the popular song-and-dance a capella singing style at weekly competitions. Outside of South Africa, however, music lovers became more familiar with the sound of isicathamiya with the release of Paul Simon’s 1986 multi-platinum record, Graceland, which included isicathamiya by Ladysmith Black Mambazo...

While the roots of isicathamiya can be traced to Zulu culture, European and American musical styles influenced its stylistic development. During the Dutch and British colonial period of South Africa, local people adapted western instruments and music to their own styles. Missionary music, American spirituals, and minstrel shows traveled through the colony, influencing the local musicians.

In the early to mid 20th century, Zulu migrant workers traveled from rural areas to urban areas to work in the mines of South Africa. In a biography of Joseph Shabalala, the leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Christopher Ballantine remarks, “Poorly housed and paid worse, [the migrant workers] would entertain themselves, after a six-day week, by singing songs into the wee hours every Sunday morning. Cothoza Mfana they called themselves, ‘tip toe guys,’ referring to the dance steps choreographed so as to not disturb the camp security guards. When miners returned to the homelands, the tradition returned with them. There began a fierce, but social, competition held regularly and a highlight of everyone’s social calendar. The winners were awarded a goat for their efforts and, of course, the adoration of their fans. These competitions are held even today in assembly halls and church basements throughout Zululand South Africa".

Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Wentomb'unecala Live


LadysmthBlackMambazo, Uploaded on Jan 13, 2011
In January 2013 Nuno Freire, a commenter on this video's viewer comment thread asked
"Can someone post a translation of the music or at least the title?" Persumably, since many of the comments are in English, Nuno Freire was asking for an English translation of the lyrics or at leeast the title of this song. Unfortunately, to date no one has provided that translation, nor does that translation appear to be available online. Actually, I've only found one comment in English language about "Wentomb'unecala" other than indicating its inclusion on Ladysmith Black Mambazo's 2008 album or show.
Here's the sole citation about that song that I found after extensive online searching: quoting The Syracuse New Times August 24, 2009
"Toward the end of the show, tilings [sic: probably "things"] smoothed out with "Wentomb'unecala." During the singable "way we do" refrain, [Joseph Shambalala] [sic] invited members of the audience to dance on stage. The stunt could have felt gimmicky, but it became the kind of moment that sticks with you long after the houselights come up.*

*From the video it appears that no one took up Joseph Shabalala's offer to dance on stage.

I'm hoping that someone who speaks Zulu will post an English translation for the word "Wentomb'unecala" in the comment section of that video, in this post, or elsewhere online. In the meantime, here's some information about the word " that I received via an online Zulu to English translation page:
wentombi [wɛnˈtoːmbi] ← wa + intombi
of (a/the) girl


icala/amacala n. 5/6 (-cala) [iːˈǀaːla] [amaˈǀaːla]
defect; flaw
error; fault; mistake
blame; guilt
crime; offence
action; case; cause; court proceeding; lawsuit; trial

unecala [unɛˈǀaːla] ← u + necala
you [he, she, it are guilty]
you have (a/the) defect; you are with (a/the) defect
Given those translations, I'm wondering if "wentomb'unecala" meaning is something like "You are guilty of mistreating that girl".

RELATED LINKS "Indlamu - The Dance That Ladysmith Black Mambazo Does"

** South African Isicathamiya Music

Thanks to Ladysmith Black Mambazo for their musical legacy. My thanks also to the online Zulu to English translation page, and to the producer & publisher of this video.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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