Sonti Mdebele, a graduate of the Gibson Kente School of theatre in Johannesburg, arrived in Botswana soon after the outbreak of the student uprising in South Africa.
Hers was a lone voice in an arts community that sorely missed the female voice. ‘Sis Dineo of the Scarers was, and probably still is, a primary school teacher who sang with The Scarers in the 1970s when the band was at its most popular.
Sonti brought the sophistication that can only come with training to popular music in Botswana, then shifting away from the Euro-American strain that dominated radio and the record stalls, towards the folk based idiom popularly known as Mbaqanga in southern Africa.
Her debut recording ‘Back Home Where I Belong’ is her testimony about her travels as a person living in exile in Botswana and Europe, as well as an affirmation of the dawn of the new era in which southern African music would find its place at the head of the folk musics of the world.
Perhaps that is why a third of the tracks on ‘Back Where I Belong’ are traditional songs to which Sonti and her collaborators on the record add a few of their own additional words.
The second track, Jiye Mame, is one such song together with the lullaby, Thula-baba,’ Please do not cry, my son’ should be a fair translation. The others are the West African folk standard made famous by Miriam Makeba, ‘Malaika’ and the other South African standard, ‘Ntyilo Ntyilo’ composed by Alan Silinga.
The most captivating track on the CD is ‘Soul Afrique’.
Trumpet player, Feya Faku, known for his collaborative work with Winston ‘Mankunku’ Ngozi, leads the melancholy-soulful horn intro with alto saxophonist and composer, Paul van Kemenade, trombonist, Louk Boudenteijn and tenor saxophonist, SydneyMnisi.
Sonti takes over with a lyric borrowed from the Setswana words in which a daughter begs for forgiveness from her aunt, seeking respite from the rain outside.
Sonti pays tribute to her mentor, Miriam Makeba, with a rendition of the Caiphus Semenya composition, ‘A Promise’.
Sonti will not regret a single note on this undertaking, and she should forever be grateful for the support of all the musicians, especially the horn section which provides warm and thoughtful backing on Soul Afrique and Ntyjilo Ntyjilo.
ÔÇó Sonti Mdebele, ‘Back where I Belong is available at Game City
Masego Woki’s recording ‘Bua Re Utlwe’ comes after several years of collaboration with musicians all over Botswana.
The title track ‘Bua’ is an exhortation to the woman’s lover, seeking acknowledgement of her beauty in her lifetime.
In Boela Mo Gae, the woman pleads with her lover to come back home. She misses him. ‘Thula’ is a swing mbaqanga in which mother comforts her weeping child.
The listener is treated to five more songs on the eight-track recording which also features Lister Boleseng on tenor saxophone and guitarist John Selolwane with Munyaradzi Vuya on keyboards and drums on all tracks.
Aubrey Woki, Masego’s husband, makes a handsome contribution on bass and vocals highlighted on the song written in tribute to Masego, ‘Mma Woki’.
ÔÇó Contact: 71257283