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“Aside from being an electrifying live performer with an incredible voice, Simphiwe Dana is also a songwriter, a mother and a dedicated cultural activist – in many senses the quintessential African Renaissance woman. Underlying all of her work is a passion for her people, traditions and country and a deep concern for their future.”[1]

Simphiwe Dana was born 23 January 1980. Hailed as the new Miriam Makeba her music is a mix of Jazz, Pop and Maskandi. On reviewing her first album ‘Zandisile’, BBC Music wrote, “…this album has become something of a phenomenon, winning this young artist’s debut album awards as both Best Newcomer and Best Jazz Vocal album at the SAMA’s (a SA equivalent of The Brits). Her first major gig was sharing the stage with the great Angelique Kidjo and she has inevitably been likened to the more gospel/blues -influenced South African singers such as Miriam Makeba and Dorothy Masuka, so she must have pretty broad shoulders to carry all the expectations heaped upon her.”[2]

She is one of a number of young female singers who are reinventing traditional music in a bracingly modern context.[3] The video for the lead single from Zandisile, ‘Ndiredi’, features African motifs in a future space: The belief that ancestors speak to African people in their dreams; and the embarking on a quest based on the messages received from the dream.

“To me Simphiwe Dana is like a gift to this whole “African renaissance movement””[4]

Simphiwe Dana has been vocal in South African politics when it comes to the usage African Languages, poverty and Education; which also reflects in her music which is largely political and sung in Xhosa. To date she has released 3 critically acclaimed albums:

  • Zandisile [2004]
  • The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street[2007]
  • Kulture Noir [2010]

In a GQ review of her latest album ‘Kulture Noir’: “South Africa’s most supernaturally soulful siren channels her whispers, sighs, and soars way beyond any ‘jazz’ or ‘world’ music pigeonholes into a searching inventory of our collective African consciousness. The African Diaspora ‘all star’ orchestrations are sometimes smooth, but the blues burning beneath her meditative maskandi-jazz hymns, a cappella calls to consciousness and funky Afro-fusion needs a buffer zone.” [5]

Simphiwe Dana – ‘Mayine’ (From Kulture Noir)

Notes:

  1. “Simphiwe Dana’s Kulture Noir”, Classic Feel Online Magazine, August 2010.[Last Accessed 3 June 2012] (www.classicfeel.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=art)
  2. Guy Hayden, “Simphiwe Dana Zandisile Review”, BBC Music, 30 May 2007. [Accessed 30 August 2012] (http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/fgn8)
  3. Mark Hudson, “Kulture Noir: Simphiwe Dana, CD Review”, The Telegraph, 22 October 2010 – [Accessed 30 August 2012] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/cdreviews/8081864/Kulture-Noir-Simphiwe-Dana-CD-review.html)
  4. GottaHaveMC, Twitter Status Update, 23 February 2012. [Accessed 30 August 2012] (http://twitter.com/GottaHaveMC/statuses/172696572956643328)
  5. Miles Keylock, ‘20 Albums You Had to Hear This Year’, GQ South Africa 2010. [Accessed 30 August 2012] (http://www.gq.co.za/entertainment/music/629847.html)
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