1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Yvonne Chaka Chaka”

Umqombothi – Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Umqombothi - Yvonne Chaka Chaka

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



Makoti – Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Makoti is the Zulu word for a young married woman or a bride. Yvonne Chaka Chaka was young (the tender age of 16) but not married when she became the first black child to appear on South African television on a talent show called ‘Sugar Shack’. Since then she has gone from strength to strength, and in 2012, once she was married (and no longer that young), she publicly declared that she would not allow her husband to take a second wife.

But let’s forget the marital issues that the word makoti has conjured up and concentrate on the song as it has a beauty and innocence that its title suggests. Yvonne’s voice is strong and is underpinned by a choir of both male and female singers, the former adding a great bass to the higher pitched Chaka Chaka and the harmonies of the female singers. The music is a simple township bass, a beat that has one swaying gently on the dancefloor and a string effect synthesizer flitting in and out of the song.

Sometimes it pays to not understand the language a song is being sung in as the vocals and music can be misleading. Despite the beauty of the song, the makoti in question is not as prim and proper as one might think. She is apparently a gossip who spends her time on the phone trying to find out the latest juicy stories. This somewhat sullies the pure sound of Yvonne’s voice and the gentle lilt of the rhythm, but if you concentrate on the latter, you can forget about the faults of the makoti, the subject of the song, and just enjoy its loveliness.

Where to find it:
The Best Of – Yvonne Chaka Chaka (2008), Universal
The Great South African Trip – Various Artists (2007), African Cream


Second husband article can be found here.


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