Singing our Stories: Experience as a Tool for Composition

‘Shwele’ is a song based on a true story I experienced as young boy during the violence years in the late 80’s in Emaqongqo a village in KwaZulu Natal.

During these times all men were a targeted it didn’t matter what age, so this one day because there were gun shots singing almost everywhere and my parents were at work, being alone in the house I panicked so much until I ran into my next door neighbor’s house to hide. When I was there I experienced something so intense that I would never forget, some old lady was babysitting her grand-daughter while her son (father of the child) was being killed so brutally right outside the house we heard every sound till he stopped breathing.

The reaction of this old woman of wisdom was unbelievable though she didn’t utter any word she started singing very quietly to the baby. It seemed to me that this humming was both a prayer to the ancestors and the angels to welcome their son but also a prayer to the child that didn’t understand what was happening.

This wise woman had two choices, one was to go outside and try protect her son and the chances were when they discover us in the house we were all going to get killed. So she went for the second choice which was to save her grandchild so she can tell the story to her when she grows up.

I remembered this experience when I was recording Icilongo – The African Peace Suite and I wrote this song which I sang and recorded in tears in studio.

Please listen with your heart:

Nduduzo Makhathini

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