Umqombothi – Yvonne Chaka Chaka
When white South African manne went around singing ‘When we drink Castle/We’re filled with admiration/for Charles’ Brew/And how it grew/a mile high reputation’, they were not the only locals singing about beer. In the townships a certain Yvonne Chaka Chaka was singing a catchy tune called ‘Umqombothi’ which translates quite simply as ‘beer’. In this case (excuse the pun), there was no mythical Charles Glass figure involved in the creation of the brew as Yvonne sings ‘Everybody come and drink my magic beer’ and the video for the song shows Yvonne outside a hut brewing up her local drink.
Yvonne’s joyful vocals float as light as the froth on top of a sorghum beer over a beat laden township synthesizer sound that’ll have you doing your Madiba dance around the house while quenching your thirst on this delightful slice of Friday night, sitting around enjoying a social drink with your mates. This is good times music, not let’s get drunk music.
The song’s popularity throughout Africa led to it being used in the opening scene of the Oscar nominated film ‘Hotel Rwanda’. The film starts with the sound of someone searching through some radio stations, stopping for a while as a message of hate against the Tutsi is broadcast by a Hutu DJ before finding this song. It is quite a strange feeling listening to this uplifting song straight after the message, but it worked in the film.
It is worthwhile putting down that Castle every now and then and enjoying this Homebrewed hit.
Where to find it:
South African Souvenirs – Various (1993), Teal, TELCD 2346