Indwe’s music has been described as ‘ethno-world with soulful intent’ - uncompromising, Afrocentric and with a distinct sound that resonates beyond borders while remaining rooted in traditional Xhosa melodies and harmonies. With her debut album on influential label Native Rhythms, the singer has quickly established herself as a unique and powerful voice.
Her powerful vocals, coupled with her valiant and original use of indigenous instruments and complex jazz arrangements, makes her one of the most vocally explosive yet soulful singers this country has produced in recent year. Indwe has drawn comparisons to the likes of Rokia Troaré, Carmen Souza, Chiwoniso and Oumou Sangaré, yet her singular talent makes these leading African divas her equal counterparts. On this her debut album, first released in 2013, Indwe has crafted beautiful, timeless music to be enjoyed by many generations to come.
Employing the services of one the most revered producers in the country, Thapelo Khomo, was perhaps an obvious choice for an artist whose music is sensitive, complex and cannot be disconnected from the character she is. The sensitivity with which Indwe constructs her compositions using Uhadi and Umrhube (traditional Xhosa instruments) allowed Khomo to carefully and skilfully construct a web of complex music arrangements while paying respect to the artist by not overshadowing the use of traditional instruments.
The albums 12 tracks (excluding two remixes) were played by some of South Africa’s finest session musicians, include Khomo’s Stimela cohorts Isaac ‘Mnca’ Mtshali, Jabu Sibumbe, Ntokozo Zungu and Joel Klein, as well as equally well-respected names such as Khaya Mahlangu, Nduduzo Makhathini and the duo Mthwa noMthwakazi, among others.
Not content to dwell only on downtempo traditional grooves, a few tracks on the album also incorporate more contemporary, dancefloor-oriented production. The radio-friendly ‘Ixesha le Wotshi’ is driven by a subtle house beat, for example. A surprise appearance is a remix of ‘Iyana’ by Shazz, a respected French producer and remixer who secured the services of the legendary St Germain (aka Alexandre Destrez) to play on the remix. Elsewhere, popular producer and radio DJ Sol Phenduka has added homegrown tribal house elements to his remix of ‘Phila’.
The album will appeal to fans of the late great Busi Mhlongo, Thandiswa Mazwai and early Simphiwe Dana (particularly since the latter’s recent departure into more pop territory on her latest album Firebrand).
In an industry seemingly obsessed with bass-heavy dance music and western pop aesthetics, Indwe has arrived like a breath of fresh air, with music to soothe, uplift and inspire. In the album’s liner notes she echoes the words of Robert Sobukwe: “Here is a tree rooted in African soil, nourished with waters from the rivers of Afrika. Came and sit under its shade and become, with us, the leaves of the same branch and the branches of the same tree.”
Buy the album on iTunes here.