Black Umfolosi

Black Umfolosi is Zimbabwe's oldest imbube acapella outfit. The group is popular for the hit song that they released in 1990 titled "Unity". So successful has been the group that it has been able to tour most parts of the world establishing itself as a true African musical ambassador.[1] Based at the Enkundleni Cultural Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Black Umfolosi take their name from the Umfolosi River that flows through the Natal province in South Africa.

Background

Formed in March 1982, the Group takes the name from Umfolozi Omnyama River in South Africa to where their ancestors can be traced. Since then the group has been growing from strength to strength, their performances are energy driven and completely engaging, mixing a great gentleness of spirit and song with an exuberance in dance. Their trademark harmonies mixed with intricate rhythms, clicking and clapping are highlighted during their brilliantly choreographed shows with full range of movements from subtle to vibrant stomping and leaping!!! Their famous Gumboot Dances showcase the traditional styles of Southern African mining regions and are a particular crowd pleaser.[2]

Black Umfolosi describe their music as a vocal newspaper through which they communicate issues of HIV/AIDS, Political Tolerance, Religion, Heritage, Culture and Globalization. Black Umfolosi sing a cappella music which is a rich woven tapestry of harmonies grounded on a bed of Zimbabwean melodies.

History

Black Umfolosi was formed in 1982 at school by peers trying to get together through arts for fun. It was in 1982 while at George Silundika Secondary School in Nyamandlovu that as mates, they started singing imbube. They just did it out of absolute fun and entertainment. The group was just large with 32 students. Teachers and fellow students would come and listen to them singing. One of the group members decided to make the group official by giving it a name and that is how the outfit was christened Black Umfolosi. One day one of the members Samuel Ndlovu whom they used to call Peter Johns decided that they formalise the operations by compiling their names before suggesting a proper name for the group. They came up with the name Nittledown which unfortunately did not last. Realising how unpopular the name was Ndlovu came up with another name Black Umfolosi and funny enough the name didn’t mean anything to them but they still adopted it nonetheless and it is still here.

Music Journey

In 1986, Tomeki Dube wrote a single track called Izono zethu and this marked the beginning of their professional singing. They recorded the single with Gramma Records in Harare. At that moment they were still doing music for fun as young students. The group then recorded their first ever and greatest album that has been a hit and more like a monumental tune that cuts across the whole country.

They recorded their first album titled "Unity" in 1990 through the assistance of Bothwell Nyamhondera. The album featured the song Unity that they came up with after being invited to perform in the 1989 Independence Day celebrations. As group members they sat down and came up with the special song to do with the special day. However, up to today they have not made much money from it when compared to all the songs that they released though it is popular in Zimbabwe.

International Tours

The group then began their regional tours in 1987 and European tours in 1990. In 1987 while performing at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) they were approached by John Benedict who invited them to Swaziland after he said their performance was wonderful and had liked it.

In 1990, Keith Goddard, a scout from Germany saw them performing at the Chibuku Neshamwari provincial finals in Bulawayo and he was impressed even though they came second in the competition. He then invited them to tour the United Kingdom. From then they toured Africa, Asia, Europe and America.

In 2015 they toured British Columbia where they showcased at the Bella Coola Music Festival which got underway on Friday 17 July and ran until Tuesday 21 July. They also performed all across Canada at big outdoor festivals since it was summer and they rounded off the tour with more performances in Mission, British Columbia from 23 to 26 July.[3]


Group Members

Profiles:

  • Thomeki Dube: Born on 5 July 1965, in Matobo District. He is the Co-founding Director of Black Umfolosi. He is still active at Black Umfolosi in performances, choreography, song writing, tour managing and overall directorship of Black Umfolosi. Academically he is a holder of 'O' Level Certificate and various courses ranging from Marketing, Dance to Arts Management. He has co-produced “The Black Burlesque” with US Artists in New York, a production that travelled across USA. Thomeki is a father and family person, with a wife and children. He has recorded three solo albums on gospel music. Thomeki loves exchange programmes and embracing of cultural diversity throughout the world.
  • Sotsha Moyo: Born in Bulilima Mangwe on 24 April 1965. As the co- founding Director of Black Umfolosi he has developed his skills to a superb lead vocalist, whose voice has touched many souls. He is the front stage face of Black Umfolosi and has done it so well. He is a song writer, vocalist, choreographer, music trainer, a dancer and an administrative co-director working with Thomeki and Austin. Sotsha is a father with a wife and children. He has over the years done 6 solo albums on Khalanga music. Sotsha loves international music and sharing experiences with other cultures.
  • Austin Chisare: Born in Bulawayo on the 17th of June 1963, he has developed to be a fine musician who has respect for the performing arts. He is a bass vocalist, dancer and a talented guitarist who plays lead and bass guitars very well. He has up to now been involved in well over 80 recordings. He is a committed father with a wife and children. He has a great character and discipline.
  • Sandi Dube: She is an intelligent brilliant young lady who grew up exposed to the works of Black Umfolosi, born in Bulawayo on 10th November 1995. Sandi has so much love of the arts, that finally her dream has come true to travel the world with legendary Black Umfolosi. Sandi is a vocalist who does alto, soprano and is a natural dancer. She is a Lupane State University graduate with Bachelor of Social Science Honours Degree in Development Studies. She has worked as an intern at the International Export Trading Company, she is a public speaker, she has worked as a Health Advocate under Advocacy Core Team and has worked with companies to do with leadership and community development. She has studied the Chinese language and culture in a Chinese University, China.
  • Luzibo Tabona Moyo: Born in Bulawayo on the 26th March 1997, Luzibo trained Ballet dancing from an early age, for the love of it through support from the parents. During the same period she was involved in a lot of traditional singing and dancing in the style of iconic Black Umfolosi. As a very creative and eager person for the new exploits, she is today a holder of 'A' Level academic certificate, National Certificate in Applied Art and Design and National Certificate in Fine Art. Luzibo currently sings tenor and alto and loves dancing and doing dance workshops.
  • Mthokozisi Moyo: Born in Bulilima Mangwe on the 22nd September 1998. Mthokozisi is a holder of 'O' level academic certificate, he is a very energetic creative dancer and vocalist. He has won several trophies as a traditional dancer and he is a product of Black Umfolosi training programmes. Mthokozisi has a great character and is very experimental. He loves exchange programmes and teaching dances from Southern Africa.
  • Sifelani Sibanda
  • Sidingumuzi Brian Moyo

Discography

  • Unity (1990)
  • Mutinhimira/Umdumo We Zimbabwe Vol. 3 (1990)
  • Shosholoza (1999)
  • Xoxani Lixolelane One Voice (2007)
  • Umhlaba (2015)

Awards

  • Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bulawayo Arts Awards


Picture Gallery

Black Umfolosi at Work
Black Umfolosi on Stage


Contact Details


References

  1. Ntombiyolwandle Ndlovu, [1], The Sunday News, Published: 15 May, 2016, Accessed: 27 April, 2020
  2. [2], JMI Canada's Folk & Blues Agency, Accessed: 27 April, 2020
  3. Sakheleni Nxumalo, [3], Newsday, Published: July, 2015, Accessed: 27 April, 2020