Multi-talented South African producer Mzilikazi wa Afrika is poised to return to the music industry with a big bang after five years. Mzilikazi, or Mzee as he is affectionately known in the industry, is set to release a pan-African album titled Timhamba (Xitsonga for ‘Ancestral Rituals’), a tribute to those who have come before him.
The star-studded album took more than three years to record and was recorded in more than 10 different countries. It features some of Africa's biggest musicians, including Malian legend Salif Keita (on ‘We are all Africans’ and ‘Sina’), Ghana’s Wiyaala, known as ‘the young lioness of Africa’ (on ‘Hiisi’), and Bholoja from Swaziland (‘Afrika‘). Other artists featured on the new album include South African talent Uhuru, Pops Mohamed, Suthukazi Arosi, Brenda Mtambo, Malatji and Nurse, as well as Alino (DRC), Kani (Nigeria), Hishishi Papa (Namibia), Ali (Turkey) and Jorgen Stenberg (Sweden). In his latest offering, Mzee introduces Rafiki, a duo signed to his label Bomba Records - hence the album artist is Mzee & Rafiki.
Though better known as an award-winning investigative journalist for the Sunday Times, Mzee’s musical prowess is no secret within the industry. In 2009 he released a double album of 31 songs, Tamanini, which included the hits ‘Zvinosiririsa’ (‘what a shame’ in Shona from Zimbabwe) and ‘Umoja’ (‘unity’ in Lingala from the DRC). It also featured collaborations with leading producers like Boddhi Satva, Black Coffee and Culoe de Song, whom he cites as some of his closest friends in his 2014 autobiography Nothing Left To Steal.
In the book the legendary South African producer Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala, who first met Mzee back in 1999, writes: “I didn’t know at the time he was a musician or had interest in music. But when he started making positive inputs to the beats that I was working on, I told him that he should consider releasing a solo album or be a music producer. His African melodies are unique and very exciting to listen to. I think his busy schedule as a journalist is preventing him from being one of Africa’s top musicians and arrangers.”
South African house heavyweight Oskido added: “Mzee’s music is touching the roots of the African culture that most of us are lacking. His unique way of fusing authentic African voices gives his music a better global appeal.” Oskido said of the new album Timhamba: “This is a highly anticipated album; everyone wants to see which direction Mzee will take this time around. We are all early waiting for it.”
As with his book, the new double album will be divided into two sections, the First Testament and the Second Testament.