According to some sources, Alan Silinga wrote ‘Ntyilo Ntyilo’ but most of the time it is credited to Miriam Makeba. It is probably because Makeba’s version is the one people normally look to when looking up this song. And it is quite possible that Makeba gets a writing credit for the lyrics and it was Silinga that wrote the music. The one source that credits the song to Silinga was the notice of his death on 7 September 2007 published by the Minister of Arts & Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan (https://www.gov.za/p-jordan-african-composer-alan-silingas-death) which notes that Silinga wrote the song for Makeba.
And what a gift he gave us in this hauntingly beautiful melody. It was a bit of a struggle to find a version credited to Silinga as the artist, but the one on ‘Essential South African Jazz – The Jo’burg Sessions’ has him as the artist on that track. And this is a beautiful instrumental version of the song. It is laid back jazz with a peaceful violin (a la Soweto String Quartet) that soothes the soul and eases any aches and pains one may have. There is a kind of sadness to the sound, but it is more a melancholy inducing sadness than a depressive one.
A number of other artists have recorded versions which are worth checking out. There is the famous Maria Makeba version already mentioned, Hugh Masekela did a flute led jazzy version, Johnny Dyani did an acoustic guitar one, Thandiswa Mazwai performs an upbeat take on it and 60’s garage band, The Shangaans, mix the Zulu lyrics with some English ones in a 60’s ballad style. So there are many different ones to chose from and you are almost guaranteed to be moved by whichever one you choose as the power of the music will transport you to a place where you feel safe and warm and wrapped in satin. I kept coming back to the one on the ‘Essential Jazz’ collection. But that’s just me. You may chose a different take on the song as your personal favourite, but its undeniably a moving track.
Where to find it:
Various artists, Essential South African Jazz – The Jo’Burg Session (2008), African Cream, ACM-CD0048