Bamba Uthando Lwethu

Leave a comment
Johannesburg, 2009

Johannesburg, 2009

We met, I think, in 1999. I was working for darts, Doncaster Community Arts, in our brand new building The Point. He did a week’s residency for us with Sunduza. I was drawn to him for his talent and his easy, friendly manner; I was greatly impressed by his workshop skills, but it was a full ten years of him coming and going before I dared to think that we could be together. For most of those years, we were colleagues and friends. He was never around for long periods – he was always based in Sheffield when he came to the UK – but he worked with us as much as he could. My fondest memory, looking back now, is of the two of us sitting on the floor of the Studio as he taught me a southern African lullaby – I was doing a project called Lullabies with parents and babies and wanted an African one. I think of that day every time I hear it: 

On a much sadder occasion, driving with Simon’s dear friend Albert Nyathi from Harare to Bulawayo for Simon’s funeral, Albert played a version of the song in the car and we both wept. He said he and Simon had listened to it just a week before and Simon had said how much he liked it.

Godfrey and Simon in Knysna

Godfrey and Simon in Knysna

My favourite photo of us in Knysna

My favourite photo of us in Knysna

In 2009 I planned a sabbatical from work and decided to go to Zimbabwe. I’d met and worked with a group called Umdumo Wesizwe and they offered to host my stay. Prompted by my good friend Godfrey Pambalipe, a close friend of Simon’s then living in Doncaster and working regularly for darts, I got in touch with Simon, having not seen him for well over a year, and we met up in Bulawayo. A relationship developed, surprising us both. In between rehearsing and performing with Umdumo, I began to fall in love with this man, fourteen years my junior, and embarked on a roller coaster ride. We visited the Matopos and Victoria Falls, two of Zimbabwe’s beauty spots, and then left Zimbabwe to meet Godfrey and Shuna, another friend who worked for darts, in South Africa. We had an amazing time full of stories, laughter and inevitably a few tears – we were testing each other out and it was not always plain sailing. But by the time I flew back from Johannesburg at the end of the trip we were both convinced that we had something worth working on.

Simon in Swaziland

Simon in Swaziland

Fast forward to two years later through ups and downs, falling apart and coming back together. We met at Oliver Tambo airport, briefly met Simon’s daughter Ormmie and her new baby Ashley, and then travelled to Swaziland where Simon had been working for some months. From there we went on to Zimbabwe where Simon introduced me to his family – two of his children Charlie and Amanda, his older brother Claudius and his wife who had brought him up since the death of his mother, and some of his mother’s relatives in the countryside. It all felt hugely significant.

Buying food for the family in the rural areas

Buying food for the family in the rural areas

As with all my trips to Africa, it was a stay never devoid of incident. Returning to Jo’burg for a night before catching the bus to Bulawayo, we again met up with Godfrey who insisted we meet members of his family in a Zimbabwean pub before going on to a birthday party. Simon was really reluctant to go and his discomfort increased when we saw a demonstration by Congolese nationals going on in the square opposite the pub. However, we went inside and I chatted happily with members of Godfrey’s family, until Simon came over and said there was gunfire outside and we should leave. I readily agreed and Simon went to fetch Godfrey. Suddenly police swarmed into the pub and lined the walls. Simon and Godfrey came through, waving me over to follow them to the door, but at that point the police swung into action, shouting and pulling at Simon and Godfrey, barring the door and attacking Simon with a whip. The officer in charge yelled at everyone to crouch down, and it was all very ugly and disturbing, until the officer seemed to clock me, the one white woman in the place, and said to everyone, “Do not go outside, it is dangerous.” Why could he not have said that before, I wonder? And then just as quickly, the police melted away, the pub returned to normal, and an enraged Simon called a taxi and took me back to the hotel.

The necklace Simon gave me

The necklace Simon gave me

Back in Jo’burg at the end of my stay, in the same very basic little hotel in Yeovil, Simon, rarely known for his romantic tendencies, took a necklace from his neck and put it around mine. “Hold our love, sweetheart,” he said.

It has rarely been off my neck since. For the album, I translated that phrase into Ndebele and put the story into a song – Bamba Uthando Lwethu.

Now our love has been tested by borders and miles,

And the ultimate parting, but still it survives

Until I find asylum in Spirit with you for eternity

Bamba, bamba, bamba uthando lwethu, sizesibonane njalo

Good grief…

Leave a comment

The last photo of Simon and me, at Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg in August 2012

October has been a pretty frantic month – my three choirs have all been learning songs from Shine Like A Rainbow, and last weekend saw me heading off to Whitby to do a special workshop at Musicport world music festival. The next couple of weeks will see workshops for Sosa-Xa! in Sheffield and Harmony Choir in Leeds. Somewhere along the way I decided that I need not rush to get the album online and fully “out there,”as there will be plenty of time for a launch in the UK when Sunduza come over, so I have been selling CDs in my choir sessions and at the workshops, which has proved highly successful.

At the Musicport workshop I was joined by three members of Siyaya, good friends from the artistic community in Bulawayo, who are just coming to the end of their tour of the UK. They agreed to help me out with the workshop on their way to a gig in Newcastle, but at the last minute one of the Musicport headliners pulled out and Jim McLaughlin, the festival organiser, invited Siyaya to take their place. I was really pleased that they got a paid gig out of doing me a favour.

So Ishmael, Mkhux (who also sings with Sunduza and is on the album) and Makula brought their tremendous energy to the Royal Hotel Ballroom, where a great crowd gathered for the workshop. We learned Rainbow/Zulu Buya and Somewhere You’re Dancing, two songs which have also proved popular with Retford Community Singers and Quirky Choir. Floating out of the workshop on a real high, we decided that I should join Siyaya on stage that evening to perform Somewhere You’re Dancing, and invite anyone who was at the workshop to come down to the front to sing with us. This we did to a fantastic reception – I hadn’t expected to sell any of my CDs that evening, but people were asking for them and two women rushed up to me saying, “We want that song for our funerals!”

I originally wrote it to sing solo at the memorial concert for Simon and his nephew Mandla in Sheffield in April 2013. When I went to Zimbabwe last December to put the album together, Charlie and the Sunduza guys made it their own, adding harmonies, references to one of Simon’s songs, percussion and a real party atmosphere. The chorus goes:

I don’t want you to rest in peace
That would never be your kind of heaven
I feel better if I believe
That somewhere you’re dancing

The words have provoked strong reactions in people – mostly positive, although I appreciate its sentiments are not for everyone. But what if we didn’t say “rest in peace” as a cliched reaction to a passing? What if, having acknowledged the pain and loss of the person left behind, we said something like, “I bet s/he’s having a great time over there?” Would it be disrespectful? I fully empathise with those whose loved ones have had a long, drawn-out and painful passing – there the time-honoured words may seem more appropriate – but when the death has been as unexpected and untimely as Simon’s, and when the person in life was so full of activity, positivity and light, they do not sit comfortably with me.

People have commented, over the past few weeks, on my “strength,” and asked how I could do this project, sing these songs, at such a difficult time. Firstly, I would say that no one who could see me at my lowest, crying at home and feeling unable to complete the simplest of tasks, would define me as a strong person. Secondly and more importantly however I would say that I draw whatever strength I do have from doing precisely what people find so remarkable – singing is what I do, as is encouraging others to do so. It is what Simon did brilliantly, and what draws me closer to him whenever I open my mouth. There is no definitive guidebook to grieving, in this death-denying culture of ours. I have chosen a very public way to express my shock and sorrow. Some people have generously told me that it helps them process their own grief, which is wonderful. To others, while I hope I am not causing offence, I hope at least it gives pause to consider there may be other ways to cope with the ultimate certainty in life.

Sharing the Music, Spreading the Word

2 Comments
Musicport Festival workshop flyer

Musicport Festival workshop flyer

When my friend Sophy and I were working on the bid for Arts Council England funding for my project the funders were keen to know how audiences in this country would benefit. This was not the most straightforward question to answer – there are perhaps two of the thirteen songs on the album that I can perform on my own, and Sunduza are not able to come over just yet – although we are hoping that they will some time in the not too distant future. But the material does adapt well to workshop settings and as I have mentioned before in my blogs a great many children have taken part in workshops based on some of the most accessible songs. Over this year I have also introduced some of the songs to my choirs – The Quirky Choir, Sheffield Socialist Choir and most recently Retford Community Singers – and they have really made the songs their own.

Simon was himself an inspirational workshop facilitator and the first time I met him, in 1999, I was deeply impressed that he could engage with so many different ages and abilities. He and Sunduza did a week’s residency at The Point, where I work with darts, Doncaster Community Arts, and I remember watching him work with adults with learning disabilities, a young people’s dance group, a group of older people wanting to learn drumming, children and the Quirky Choir, and being so impressed with his easy manner and flexible working style.

With his manager Philip Weiss Simon set up a choir in Sheffield called SOSA-XA! – Sounds Of Southern Africa – passing on the leadership to his nephew Mandla Sibanda who worked with the choir for many years before his tragic death just months before Simon’s. I was privileged to work with this choir in a memorial concert for Simon and Mandla in March 2013 and will be returning to share the Shine Like A Rainbow songs with them in November with their current leader Richard Mahachi.

And next week I am excited to announce I will be travelling up to Whitby to do a workshop/presentation as part of the Musicport Festival. I’m lucky to have the assistance of four wonderful singers from Bulawayo group Siyaya who are just coming to the end of their tour here, including Mkhuxunque Sodoyi who features on the album as a member of Sunduza, and Ishmael Muvingi, a good friend of Simon’s.

So if you’re doing to be at the festival, please come along to the Royal Hotel Ballroom at noon on Sunday October 19th and sing with us!

Long time no see

4 Comments
Shine Like A Rainbow CD

Shine Like A Rainbow CD

So the album arrived, way back in May after my last post. I wasn’t prepared for my reaction – of course I was pleased and proud of what is, I am assured, a beautiful piece of work, but the expected elation didn’t happen – rather the reverse, actually. I found myself plunged into a pit of inertia and indecisiveness over the best way to proceed with it, I became confused by conflicting advice, and apart from giving away a few copies to friends and family and a couple of boxes to Philip, Sunduza’s manager, it’s pretty much sat around in my dining room for four months. With no prospect of Sunduza coming here any time soon, I couldn’t see how I was going to promote it and I guess I experienced another phase of the grieving process.

Well, no more, this has to stop and I need to take it forward. I owe it to Simon’s memory, to Charlie, the other musicians who put so much energy into it, and ultimately myself.

So here I am again, taking a vow of seriousness and re-committing to the blog, the promotion of the music and to the project.

I haven’t exactly done nothing however. Over the summer two of my choirs created and performed their own versions of a song from the album – worth its own blog post so I won’t say any more here. I continued to deliver children’s workshops based on some of the songs –

workshop

All set up for a workshop with young people with learning disabilities at The Point in Doncaster

and I will continue this work into the autumn. Sheffield Socialist Choir are now learning Matata, intending once again to add our own words about a current “matata” (problem) – most likely on an environmental theme. Quirky Choir and Retford Community Singers will also learn some of the songs, and I am offering workshops to other choirs in the region. And I am very excited to be doing a workshop at this year’s Musicport Festival in Whitby on 19th October – even more so since some of my old friends in the performance group Siyaya, including Mkhux who also sings with Sunduza and is on the album, have offered to come and help me.

Philip went to Zimbabwe in August and took some CDs for Charlie and the others. They are now busy planning an album launch in Bulawayo featuring as many as possible of the musicians and also creating an exhibition of photos of Simon and of ourselves during the creation of the music last year.

So one of the few things I did manage to do was to book a flight for December – I am flying out again on the 5th for a couple of weeks – no doubt to another packed schedule of rehearsals and gigs, and for the second anniversary of Simon’s passing including the unveiling of a gravestone.

Early reactions from the few people who have heard the album so far have been extremely positive – I was worried that it would only appeal to those who knew Simon, but it seems to be touching others too and resonates particularly with those who have lost a loved one. I have had a kind offer from one such person to make a promotional video for the album, free of charge, which is lovely.

Still have a packed to do list including getting it on iTunes etc. but I finally feel as if things are moving again. I promise not to fall silent again!

Kicking up a storm…

Leave a comment

photo

I knew early on in planning this project that there would have to be a song about football. Simon loved the game, both as player and spectator; Charlie played professionally for a while until he decided to follow his father’s legacy as a singer, as did his brother Tonny, and his youngest sister Amanda is goalkeeper for the national women’s team The Mighty Warriors and during my stay participated in a decisive win against Lesotho in the Unity Day Cup. Click on the link for a pre-match photo of Amanda, looking incredibly like her father!

Along with thousands in and around Bulawayo and its diaspora, Simon was passionate about the city’s team Highlanders and rarely missed a match. I was often left to my own devices, or put in the care of family or friends, whilst he went off to Barbourfields Stadium. He was over the moon when I bought him a Newcastle United shirt which sports the same black and white stripes as the Highlanders home strip.

(Click on the YouTube icon to play this clip)

We already had a song of Simon’s that we could work on – Amahlolamyama (one of many nicknames for the team meaning a type of black and white bird)was written for the show Matata and is still very popular. Charlie took the chorus and added new elements to the song including the sound of the vuvuzela, the ubiquitous plastic horn which endeared itself to the world in the 2010 South African World Cup.

Other nicknames for the team – Siyinqaba (we are victorious), Tshilamoya (we turn spirits around), Bosso (the boss)and Bossolona – appear in the song.

So what could my contribution be? The lonely cry of a football widow – “please excuse my jealousy, but did he love you more than me?” – and a rap over some commendable beat boxing from the guys, telling the story of a weekend trip to the wonderful Victoria Falls, quite early on in our relationship. Our idyllic stay in one of the most beautiful and romantic spots in Africa, if not the world, had to be cut short – painfully so, as it necessitated getting up at two in the morning to get the bus – so that Simon could be back in Bulawayo for the match on Sunday afternoon.

Our version of the song is proving immensely popular with children in the workshop I have devised for primary schools based on this project. They enjoy singing parts of the song, trying to get a sound out of the vuvuzelas, and joining in the final chant – Bosso! clap clap clap…

Matata, matata…problems, problems!

Leave a comment

a moment of concentration in the studio

a moment of concentration in the studio

Matata is perhaps the song of Simon’s that we re-interpreted in the most straightforward way. He wrote it as the title song for the theatre production of the same name. “Matata” is a Swahili word meaning “problem”, perhaps best known to non-Africans in the phrase “Hakuna matata” – “no problem” which was famously used in The Lion King.

It was the first song I chose when looking for songs to adapt for the album, as it is quite simple and affords a lot of opportunities for new material to be inserted over the top of the bass ostinato: “There is a big, big problem.” I wrote a section about the big problem being Simon’s sudden and untimely demise and us all having to carry on without him. Charlie wrote a couple of new bits too, necessitating some fast and (for me)tongue-twisting Ndebele phrases which he insisted I had to learn: “Ukhon’uhlupho lukholu kunzima kumatata!” gave me a few problems!Like all such things, it’s easy once you master it, and I’m glad Charlie pushed me to get it right as audiences were impressed that I managed it.

It sounds like a miserable subject for a song, but it is fast and spirited and quite uplifting. I’m hoping to sort out the video of the Eziko performance to put on here soon.

Zimbabweans live with problems on a daily basis, but never get down about them. I’m not going to go into the political causes of those problems here – I want to go back, and there are plenty of more informed sources. But life is generally quite hard, and has been for some time. I have seen some improvements since my first visit in 2009, when there was little food in the shops, refuse was piled high on the streets (including wads of worthless Zim dollars)and schools were closed as the teachers were not being paid. Now that people are used to using US dollars and South African rands, things are much better for those who are lucky enough to have jobs. Still, however, things that we take for granted over here continue to be issues for Zimbabweans.

Electricity, for example, is at a premium – there just isn’t enough. To address this there is what is called load-shedding – different areas are scheduled for power cuts at pre-arranged times – although sometimes when I was there it seemed pretty random. The family keeps stocks of candles and alternative ways of cooking – gas rings or open fires outside. One of the reasons I failed to keep up a regular blog while I was there was that the times I could do it never matched the times that we had power.

More crucially, water is also rationed. There was no water to be had from the taps during the day – it would typically come on around nine in the evening, when every receptacle in the house would be filled, and we would use water during the day from large plastic bins allocated for each purpose. The first person up in the morning would put on water to heat for bathing – which was done in a small plastic bath placed in the old defunct bath in the bathroom – I got used to these strip washes, with hot water in the plastic bath, a smaller container of cold water to modify the temperature, and a plastic cup for washing my hair. Then I would flush the toilet with the water I’d used – I became much more mindful of not wasting water. Laundry of course is all done by hand – here is Simon’s youngest daughter Amanda doing some washing:

Amanda doing the laundry

But it is money that is in really short supply with unimaginably high unemployment levels – many Zimbabweans rely on support from relatives outside the country and the culture within it is very much that of helping each other – I am amazed how people cope, and not only that but remain so cheerful – it’s a cliche but it’s true. People grow their own vegetables, there are food co-operatives, and a general sense of family and social responsibility that extends beyond blood ties.

All of which gives me even more respect for artists in Zimbabwe, who pursue their passions with such infrequent and insufficient reward, and gratitude that I was given the chance not only to honour Simon but also to offer paid work to those who were involved in this project.

Zulu Zulu Buya…again

8 Comments

One of the most enjoyable performances Sunduza and I did was at Eziko Arts Laboratory at the Ndlovu Centre in Tshabalala. These events are run by performance poet Desire Moyoxide and provide the opportunity for artists at any stage of their careers to try out new material on a friendly, supportive and enthusiastic audience.

I was pleased to meet up with old friends like the amazing marimba group Rainbow Blaze  who did a storming performance, and familiar faces in the audience like Ishmael Muvingi, a good friend of Simon’s and a superb singer, from the dance theatre group Siyaya.

It had been two years since I was last at Ndlovu. It is an old and rather rundown youth centre and several groups of artists rehearse there – when I first visited Zimbabwe I went there regularly to rehearse with imbube group Umdumo Wesizwe. The place suffered from neglect and lack of funding – I have a strong unpleasant memory of finding maggots in the women’s toilets. Now however the place has been transformed into a vibrant arts venue. It was buzzing with activity and I was both nervous and excited at the opportunity to perform some of the songs we had been rehearsing and recording.

The Sunduza guys were wearing matching blue tops and Charlie took me around one of the markets in the city centre to find something suitable for myself, an impressive flowing purple dress which I hoped gave me a Miriam Makeba look. Simon was always vary particular about his stage wear and as this was the place where he and Jeys Marabini had performed Zulu Buya I wanted to do him proud.

I look back fondly on our set at Eziko – it was chaotic at times with sound engineers running around fixing my microphones but the atmosphere was electric and our performance elicited an emotional response from the audience. I hope this comes across in the video clip.

Rain, rain, rain…and rainbows

Leave a comment

Janet and Sunduza One of the first songs Sunduza and I rehearsed was Rainbow, a song written by Charlie to celebrate one of his father’s nicknames and also the significance of rainbows to Charlie and to me since Simon’s passing.

Soon after I got back to the UK after the funeral, still in shock and pain, I drove to a favourite place of mine, the Idle Valley Nature Reserve near Retford. On the way, I sent up a silent prayer – “Sweetheart, if you can hear me, send me a rainbow!” It was a cold, clear and sunny day, and as I walked around the lake there was no sign of rain.

I met up with a friend for a cup of tea, in the cafe looking over the lake. We had been chatting for nearly an hour when she suddenly said, “Oh look, a rainbow!” – and there it was, as if painted onto a huge black cloud which had suddenly appeared over the lake. It was the first of many comforting signs that Simon is still around. I shared the experience with Charlie, and within an hour he was calling me back saying that he had seen a rainbow too.

Zulu Zulu Buya (Rain, Rain Come)is a traditional Ndebele children’s rhyme – at the first sign of rain after a dry spell, they run out chanting “Zulu zulu buya, sidl’amakhomane!” (Rain, rain come, we eat pumpkins!). For one of his last major performances Simon and his good friend Jeys Marabini did a lovely arrangement of Zulu Buya that became very popular. https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?v=324943367607263

So I was very surprised and touched when Charlie said that he wanted me to sing Zulu Buya following on from the first part of his Rainbow song. He had written a new tune for it and it fitted in really well. It became a bit of a joke between us all that every time we rehearsed and performed it, sooner or later it would start raining – well, it was the rainy season, but Charlie tells the story of one day when Simon sang it during the previous so-called rainy season, when they had suffered weeks of very hot dry weather and water was scarce – and after his performance, lo and behold, it rained.

The first time we performed it was at a Christmas festival in Mpopoma. It was in a park and there were several children in the audience. When I started singing Zulu Zulu Buya there was a roar from the crowd and everyone started clapping and cheering – partly because here was an ikhiwa (white person) singing in Ndebele and partly because they recognised it as something Simon used to sing. I felt like a pop star! A couple of weeks later, driving past some children in the street and hearing them call out, I asked Charlie what they had said. “You are famous Mum,” he replied. “They are saying, ‘there is that ikhiwa who sings Zulu Buya!'”

One day I went to Jeys’s house to rehearse a song for the album. I sang him a song I had written and got quite emotional. It was pouring with rain as we worked. Then I received a phone call from Charlie, who was on his way to pick me up; he had got off the bus and was walking up to the house. “Mum! Go outside! Quickly!” he said. Jeys and I went to the door and gasped. The most perfect rainbow lit up the sky.

When we came to record the song for the album, I realised quite late in the day that the children’s nursery rhyme “I hear thunder” would fit into the arrangement, so I taught it to the children and we put it in at the end of the track. When I teach the song in workshops, as I have now started to do in primary schools, I point out that our nursery rhymes tell the rain to go away, whereas Africans celebrate it.

We also asked poet Desire Moyoxide to add his inimitable style of performance poetry to the track. We are extremely pleased with the result and if there were to be a single from the album, this would be it. Charlie’s line, “Shine like a rainbow,” soon became the title of the album – a fitting tribute to a man called Rainbow who continues to shine in our hearts.

Driving around the bend

Leave a comment

Janet driving in Zimbabwe

Janet driving in Zimbabwe

As I mentioned in my last post, driving in Zimbabwe presents many challenges. The roads have to be seen to be believed – an endless mass of humps and potholes, requiring the driver to weave a precarious path from one side to another and back again. It is an old joke in Zimbabwe that you can tell who the drunk drivers are because they are the ones driving in a straight line. Off-road driving, of which there is a lot, has even more pitfalls – the solemnity of my trip to the cemetery on the anniversary of Simon’s passing descended into the ridiculous as I failed to notice a tree stump and got stuck, unable to go forward or backwards, until we enlisted help to lift the car free.

Then there are the roadblocks. I received two ten dollar fines – one for listening to music without a radio licence – particularly galling as it was our own music we were listening to, but I was advised not to say anything – and one for not carrying a workable fire extinguisher. On the one occasion when I was stopped for something I agreed was dangerous – carrying too many children in the back – the officer let me go. But on the whole I was stopped less frequently than my Zimbabwean friends – Charlie said it was assumed that white people were more likely to have their papers in order.

Driving gets doubly scary at night as there are no visible road markings or street lights. And heavy rain causes more problems, as you just can’t see where the potholes are.

Our car is a silver Toyota Ceres. Simon and I bought it in Swaziland, and he drove it, with a friend sharing the driving, all the way to Bulawayo, at no small cost. It was his pride and joy however, and is now Charlie’s. Charlie never tires of adding things to it and even sleeps in it overnight sometimes. On the windscreen he has the words “Dr. Mahlaba,” one of Simon’s nicknames, and at the back the word “Junior.” A pendant with Simon’s photo on each side dangles from the rear view mirror.

Owning a car brings unspoken responsibilities in the neighbourhood. Charlie woke me one morning at six, to say that two young men were outside wanting us to take them and some audio equipment to a place in town where they were working at a wedding. Refusing was not an option. Simon always intended it to be a source of income for the family and Charlie often hires it out for small amounts. I advised Charlie to sell it after Simon died, thinking that it could bring more problems and expense, but I’m glad now that he didn’t listen. It was invaluable to us during my stay.

Diving in at the deep end

Leave a comment

After just one day’s rehearsal we set off on Sunday for the first day’s recording session with Tswarelo of 10th District Music at Ingwe Studios in Hillside, one of the leafier suburbs of Bulawayo. The early start is due to Tswarelo having to be away for much of the next two weeks.

Getting everyone there on time – and Tswarelo is meticulous about timing, belying his country’s stereotype – is no mean feat. Charlie, Tonny and I use the car that Simon and I bought in Swaziland when he worked there for a while, but there are another eight Sunduza members to pick up from various meeting points in the townships. We have to stop in the city centre to buy gas for a stove, as we need to feed everyone at lunchtime and have brought stew cooked at home the previous evening. Add the state of the Zimbabwean road network and the prevalence of road blocks into the mix, and I at least arrive feeling more than a little on edge.

We soon settle into the pleasant surroundings at Ingwe, however. After a warm-up we rehearse our first song. Tswarelo’s procedure is to record what he calls a pilot, which will serve as a guide track, in the main part of the studio, and then to record each individual voice or instrument in the sound booth. This ensures the best possible results as each voice can be perfectly balanced in the final mix, which will be done back in the UK with Keith Angel at Wavelength Studios in Doncaster.

After a trip to the local supermarket for some sadza, or, more accurately, isitshwala as we are in Matabeleland, to accompany our stew, we have a relaxing lunch outside before a few more hours’ recording, establishing what is to become a normal pattern of laying down an average of two tracks per day. Things are shaping up.

Relaxing during a break in recording.

Relaxing during a break in recording.

Leon recording

Leon recording