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Mahube (South Africa)  

Mahube heralds a new dawn in Southern African sound.

By Philip Kakaza

"MAHUBE, a new musical concept that encompasses African rhythms in the southern region of the continent, promises to breathe new sounds into the air and take the festival by storm.

But who is behind Mahube and what’s the concept behind their music? Says Steve Dyer, a founder and director of the project: “Mahube means ‘new dawn’ in Sotho and it’s a collaboration of 12 musicians from different groups from four countries.”
Dyer, a South African saxophonist, has worked with top local musicians including Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela and Philip Tabane.

While living in Zimbabwe, he formed his own band, the Southern Freeway, and started interacting with other musicians, including Oliver Mutukudzi, the renowned Zimbabwean musician who has recorded over 35 albums.
“Mutukudzi is an amazing vocalist; his powerful voice is one of the most distinctive.
“Working with him was a great experience and it was then that I started to work on the idea of collaborating with other artists to interpret Southern African sounds,” says Dyer. Mutukudzi’s soundtrack for the Zimbabwean feature film Neria won the M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992.

Genre: African Jazz, African
Dyer’s dream of working with musos from all over Southern Africa came true last year: Mahube was born and in October, they performed at the Out of Africa festival in Munich.
Other band members are Suthukazi Arosi (vocals), a local award-winning singer and actress, South African Scorpion Madondo (saxophone, flute), Malawian George Phiri (vocals, guitar), Bheki Khoza (guitar), Phinda Mtya (vocals), Barry van Zyl (drums), Feya Faku (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andile Yenana (piano, keyboard), Herbie Tsoaeli (bass guitar, double bass) and Tlale Makhene from Swaziland (percussion).
Mahube first gained popularity in Munich, where it represented Southern Africa and gave visitors a taste of the rhythm of the region.
Dyer describes their Munich stage performance as a musical pilgrimage that toured Southern Africa. African songs were rendered by the sweet voices Mtya and Phiri and the moving, soulful vocals of Mutukudzi and Arosi, with a touch of Zulu tradition from guitarist Khoza.
Arosi did an emotional dance performance which became the climax of the show. Dyer says their music, which could be mistaken for the music of a new millennium, has always been in our continent, but has not been explored by musicians.
“We have a tendency to work in isolation as musicians and that restricts us from being creative. Mahube is about sharing ideas and exploring African sounds, reworking them and producing unique African sounds.
“It is amazing, wherever you go in Africa you find that we have similar rhythms and they differ in beats and are influenced by various instruments. Zimbabwean music is more based on the mbira while South African rhythm is more urban. We have to break the barriers and fuse the rhythms. Then it becomes a common language.”

Though he says it’s difficult to describe their music in words, it’s a fusion between Coltrane-style jazz and marabi music.
But Dyer says there is no classification. You can call it mbaqanga, rumba or maskandi, but it remains a unique sound much rooted in Africa.

The music also incorporates old traditional songs like Ilanga Litshonile with their own interpretation.
“Mahube is a project that aims to promote a working relationship with more musicians. It will be a great idea if we could do all the rhythms in Africa and interpret traditional songs of Africa,” says Dyer.

A new CD, Mahube, will feature all 12 musicians. It is a compilation of Southern African rhythms featuring two traditional songs with new arrangements, Ilanga Litshonile, by Miriam Makeba and the Zimbabwean traditional song Moroi.
The album will be released in July."

This article was origanally published on the M&G ZA@PLAY website,16 June 1998

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