If there is anything that we have learnt from the past year with the advent of COVID-19 is how music is life itself. This period has seen some of the most mellifluous music I have ever come across in my short stint as a music reviewer being created. Alike, the past few days have been nothing short of releases of glorious music and one particular song that has stuck with me precisely for its rich and indubitable sound is the award winning and alternative music champion, Hwabaraty’s Njelele single, taken off his not yet titled upcoming album.
The seamlessly produced number, something Hwabaraty has become synonymous with, tells the story of the bravery and selflessness shown by women who when embarking on a pilgrimage to Njelele, left their families behind to ask for rain not just for themselves, but for the entire nation.
The song in its entirety is a journey, it’s impossible not to envision a woman journeying in slow motion through the mountains on her way to the shrine. Although Njelele remains somewhat a mystery to date, Hwabaraty provides a little window into all this through the single art that suggests a trek through the waters, thick bushes, over the mountains, flying high with the birds, the epitome of Njelele’s sanctity I imagine.
The muso’s belief that music is spiritual radiates through this single that glistens in a very spiritual manner. The mellow yet foot tapping and easy to clap along tune carries with it emotional weight of feelings evoked by the vocal and instruments arrangement, particularly the haunting sounds of the acoustic guitar and the percussion.
The slightly over 5-minute track opens with enchanting chants in true Hwabaraty style and what these do is to draw you in instantly, the stuff good music is all about – the command!
These chants that are backed by voices I imagine are by, if not some of the members of the high flying all-female ensemble, Nobuntu, set the tone for the song that effortlessly ties in with the mood. This speaks to the level at which Hwabaraty, and his creative team have mastered the art of interpretation.
It is at this point that my mind runs amok, I imagine how the song would have turned out had a full choir been enlisted to do the backing vocals, but then again, I am redirected to the sacredness of the Njelele shrine. Using the few backing voices that were used in the song was the right step in the creative direction, once again, a clean strike on the interpretation!
Hwabaraty has previously performed Njelele live at the Bulawayo Arts Festival and one thing that stood out then and still does now is how palpable the song is. It channels events this musician has seen or experienced before in one form or the other, I imagine.
The Njelele stories are as relevant today as they ever were and Hwabaraty skillfully portrays this notion and what better way to do it than to put it across sonically?