The harmony ripples
sweet looping quavers connect
to rhythmic kwela.
An offshoot of marabi sound, kwela is the jazzy street music which came to life in the early 50s in South Africa and is still going strong today. The primary instrument of kwela, in the beginning, was the pennywhistle, a cheap and simple instrument which was played by street performers in the townships.
The word ‘kwela’ has its origins in the Zulu word for ‘get up’, but in township slang it also refers to the police vans that patrolled the townships in the apartheid era, the so-called ‘kwela-kwela vans’. It’s said that kwela bands were often used as lookouts to warn gamblers or drinkers of the approaching police.
I don’t think anyone who listens to kwela music can resist shaking a tail feather along with the best of them!
Daniel Mnguni, Siphiwe Dludlu, Smal Ndaba, Charles Dhlomo and Themba Ndaba in Kwela Bafana (Photo: Baxter Theatre)(**Tracy at Pink Purl and Elizabeth at About New York are co-hosting this wonderful around-the-world Haiku Festival and both have a list of participating bloggers if you’d like to see more of this fascinating poetry style. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Tracy and Elizabeth! It’s been great fun.**)