“Their singing is a marvelous blend of rhythm, melody and harmony welded together with enormous complexity, but ending up with a sound that is acting simplicity” ~ fROOTS Magazine, England
Black Umfolosi 5, whose members come from the Ndebele people closely related to the Zulus, are Zimbabwe’s greatest ambassadors – a world famous a-cappella and dance group formed in 1982 by school friends in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, who named themselves after the Umfolozi Omnyama River in South Africa – to where their ancestors can be traced.
Black Umfolosi’s performances are energy driven and utterly engaging, combining a great gentleness of spirit and song with an exuberance in dance. Their trademark harmonies mixed with intricate rhythms, clicking and clapping, are highlighted throughout their brilliantly choreographed shows with a full range of movement; from subtle to vibrant stomping and leaping. Their famous Gumboot Dances showcase the traditional styles and rituals of the South African mining regions and are a particular crowd pleaser.
Created by early 20th century migrant mine workers living in all-male hostels, Black Umfolosi’s style of imbube (or township a-cappella) is a unique sound that is both uplifting and meditative, focusing on a wide range of themes, such as global warming, respect for oneself and others, human rights and AIDS. Black Umfolosi describe their songs as a "vocal newspaper,” and take their music to parts of Africa where there are no radios or televisions, acting as the media to promote healthy living and education.
Known in the west chiefly through the work of Zulu band Ladysmith Black Mambazo, this is music for unaccompanied choirs in which a lead tenor shares a call-and-response with the ensemble's chordal riffs and refrains, rich in bass voices and consonant harmonies. Imbube is kin to doo-wop and hymn singing as well as to African vocal traditions; the refrains drive the music like a breath-powered locomotive.