Thandiswa Mazwai’s new album 'Sankofa' is here

 Thandiswa Mazwai’s 4th studio album Sankofa is out today on all streaming platforms!

Since the beginning of her career in 1996, the legendary artist has been one of the most influential singers in post-apartheid South Africa. Known for her electrifying performances, Thandiswa has toured the world and will celebrate her new offering with shows in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

Sankofa is a Ghanaian Twi word that means ‘to go back and fetch what has been left behind’. The making of this work, her first album of original songs since 2009’s Ibokwe, has embodied this idea. Recorded in Johannesburg, Dakar, and New York, the album combines archival Xhosa samples, jazz and west African music. It includes songs produced by Meshell Ndegeocello, Chris Bruce, Nduduzo Makhathini, Tendai Shoko and Thandiswa. It features collaborations with Thandi Ntuli and Nduduzo Makhathini.

Thandiswa says: “The making of Sankofa was a sonic odyssey that took me from the ancient villages of the Eastern Cape to Dakar and New York, weaving a thread that culminated in something truly special. Within those ancient rhythms and polyrhythms, a common lexicon revealed itself to me and I am excited to share this music with those who have been growing and evolving with me. Listen out for uhadi, umrhubhe, ngoni, kora and drums in the music. It is about a celebration of the pan-African spirit, healing old wounds, and returning to what honours us.”

About the recording of Sankofa, her fourth release since 2016’s Belede, 2009’s Ibokwe and her solo debut 20 years ago Zabalaza, Thandiswa says “In 2010, I went to visit the International Library of African Music at Rhodes University where I got access to an archive of field and research of Xhosa music; I had these recordings for a very long time. During the COVID lockdown, I went back to these recordings and realised I could use them as a bedrock for creating new songs, and these field recordings became the building blocks of the album. After I did all the pre-production on songs with my friend Tendai Shoko, we would put down to bass, notes, and guitar chords to create demos, which we then took to my producers Nduduzo Makhathini and Meshell Ndegeocello.”

She adds: “What I noticed was they were really responding to the archives, and this became the looming spirit that carried us through the album: all of us experimenting, discovering, investigating, questioning, collecting our lineages, rooting ourselves and responding to the archival experience and infusing it with something from the now. In West Africa, they responded to the archive by marrying expressions from umrhubhe with the kora; bringing their colour into it, making this an album that speaks not only to the pan-African spirit but also to the diaspora.”

The themes in the album are: “Healing, reclamation and political dissatisfaction. It is also an album that re-enforces my pan-African identity.” She says of these tracks:

– sabela: Every life born to this world has a calling, a purpose. Mine is to sing and I am most joyful when I heed the call.

– Biko speaks: You cannot in the emancipation of black people use the same systems used to oppress those very same people.

– emini: Many of us thought that a black government would have empathy and a radical vision for the country…

– kunzima: The freedom has been squandered and our leaders have lost track of what they called ‘a historic mission’.

– Dogon: As I think of the bright light from Po Tolo I am reminded of the creator of all things and ask her to illuminate our beautiful black lives.

– kulungile (featuring Nduduzo Makhathini): A song about childhood trauma and healing.

– with love to Makeba: A reinterpretation of Miriam Makeba’s Moulouyame, this song is dedicated to Mama Miriam and the country that took her in and gave her a home, Guinea.

– children of the soil: Selifikile babhem. The time has come my friends.

– xandibona wena (featuring Thandi Ntuli) – We have a saying: ‘intliziyo ayiphakelwa’ which translates to, you cannot dish up for the heart. The heart wants what it wants.

– fela khona: Don’t save me. Don’t rescue me. I want to die here. (A prurient anthem for warm nights in Johannesburg.)

The album will be launched alongside a celebration of 20 years of Zabalaza at Carnival City on May 11. The show has been supported by South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA)