Bavikile Ngema


Produced by Sazi Dlamini
Recorded at The Headroom Studio in Durban, South Africa
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Marius Botha
Original photo and illustration by Maria Cristina Giampietri
Design and layout by Steve Jones

Bavikile ‘MaBhengu’ Ngema, who lives in Mbongolwane, eShowe was born in 1951 in the Nkandla district of KwaZulu-Natal. A prolific composer and virtuoso player on makhweyana and mqangala (mbheleza) musical bows, she also plays harmonica and jaws-harp. Learning to play by watching and imitating her sisters and cousins, Bavikile is the first player I have come across who employs an extended makhweyana stopping technique to obtain an extra fundamental note on the higher-pitched segment of the braced bow. She possesses acutely integrated senses of the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities of both traditional and popular Zulu music – which lends both her original compositions and interpretations of indigenous repertoires with dancing, youthful vibrancy. Deeply steeped in the poetic Zulu traditions, her texts display a sharp critique and astute comment on the social, political and the moral of everyday experience. More than this her music provides a rich respository of her own life story – which can be summed up as one of courage and indomitability in the face of devastating personal tragedies, including the death of her husband and recently her three children in the prime of their youth…