About the Black Umfolosi
The title of their 2001 release, Xoxani Lixolelane, is a Ndebele phrase which simply means `one voice`. This simple phrase captures the ideal spirit of this world famous a-cappella and dance group from Zimbabwe: Black Umfolosi.
Based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe`s second city, the group take their name from the Umfolosi River that flows through the Natal province of South Africa. This name was chosen as a means of remembrance to their forefathers who lived along the banks of the Umfolosi River before they migrated north to Matebeleland in Zimbabwe. The group began as a means of entertaining themselves while still at school in 1982, and since then the self-trained, original 6 members have developed their skills and organization into an 18 member musical organization who provide a multitude of services in the performing arts industry in Zimbabwe and internationally.
Their style of Imbube music (or township a-cappella) is a unique sound that is both uplifting and meditative, focusing on a wide range of themes that are important to Black Umfolosi and the people of Africa. Issues such as global warming, respect for oneself and others, human rights, AIDS and education are all touched upon in addition to their traditional interpretations of well-known Ndebele songs. 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. Wherever they are in the world, Black Umfolosi devote huge amounts of time and energy visiting schools, hospitals, prisons and community centres performing and leading workshops in song and dance.
From a simple street performance to a capacity crowd of over 50,000, Black Umfolosi consider their work to be not only entertainment, but a means of reviving and preserving Zimbabwean particularly Ndebele culture.
Their performances are energy driven and completely engaging, mixing a great gentleness of spirit and song with an exuberance in dance. Harmonies mixed with intricate rhythms, clicking, clapping and shouting are highlighted with some leaping, stomping and the odd high kick! Add to this their dynamic dances showcasing the traditional dancing styles and rituals of the South African regions, flavoured with their own contemporary styles and movements.
Black Umfolosi is much more than a performing group, they are active in training others, particularly the youth, in dance and voice. They try to identify and develop up and coming groups and mentor them along their path to success. They provide workshops and residences in dance, voice, theatre, costume design, poetry, mime and also address various issues affecting society today.
In short, Black Umfolosi are not only an internationally acclaimed a cappella music and dance troop, but a community driven organization aiming to give back to the people what they have themselves received.