Amahubo (Part Two)

Vocalist and cultural researcher, Mbuso Khoza
Vocalist and cultural researcher, Mbuso Khoza

Last week we wrote an introduction to amahubo songs, and this week we’re focusing on Mbuso Khoza, one of the greatest proponents of this style of music.

A cultural researcher and singer, Khoza is interested in far more than just the sound of the music, but rather considers the genre from a historic and story-telling point of view. Khoza believes that amahubo songs tell us what the migration of people across Africa reveals about our collective ancestry:

We try to marry the past and the present by first looking at the pre-Shakan era. What did they sing about in the era of Malandela and Mnguni? By finding that out, you determine what the political situation was at the time. Were there wars? Were they frequent? If the songs focused on nature and the beauty of eligible women, then you can determine that it was a time of relative peace.

In the Shakan era, many were definitely about war. Also, you can establish what the post-Shakan era tells us about melodies. That was a time of missionaries and people like Theophilus [Shepstone, also known as Somtseu]. So when you hear the national anthem, you can hear that it was Anglicised. Throughout our performance, you get to experience all these things, the Zionists and their influence.”

Khoza has resurrected a wonderful selection of amahubo songs which he performs as part of the KZN Heritage Ensemble, a 16-strong acapella group which he founded. Khoza also has plans to compile a songbook that will help to uncover the “hidden histories encoded in amahubo music”.

Click here to watch Mbuso Khoza and the KZN Heritage Ensemble performing one of their pieces live on Kaya FM.

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