Ukuthula (Live In Peace) – Busi Mhlongo
Victoria Busisiwe Mhlongo began her singing career going under the name Vickie. She was initiated as a sangoma, but due to the political situation in South Africa, she went into exile. She recorded some early singles such as a cover of ‘Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In’ from the musical ‘Hair’ and ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ which was a hit for Tom Jones. These can be found on Youtube, but listening to them, aside from the slight accent she sings with, one would hardly think this was a South African singer. The songs and stylings are all Western.
She only seemed to find her South African musical roots just as apartheid was coming to an end, releasing an album in 1993 called ‘Babhemu’. Then in 1999 came the critically acclaimed ‘Urban Zulu’ which included the track ‘We Baba Omncane’ which was used in a global ad campaign for Adidas. Also on the album was ‘Ukuthula (Live In Peace)’ which digs deep into the Maskanda style of music particular to the Zulu traditions. There is the freneticly picked guitar and a kind of cylical accordion which race playfully with each other and create an almost hypnotic sound that one could almost describe it as Zulu pyschedelic. Over this we hear the wailing crying voice of Busi as it bounces on top of the repeated chorus that melts in the pot with the guitar and accordion.
The song swirls and gyrates like a dancer around a fire on an African evening, the music transporting the singer and musicians into a kind of trance like state that leaves one exhausted and strangely sated. Sadly, Busi died in 2010 (in the middle of the Fifa World Cup in South Africa) just as her career seemed to be taking off. She had waited long enough for it to start (she would have been in her early 50’s when ‘Urban Zulu’ was released), but she certainly left a mark with Ukuthula (Live In Peace). Lala ngoxolo (Rest in Peace) Busi.
Where to find it:
Urban Zulu – Busi Mhlongo (1999) MELT, BW2116