Sugar, spice, and the fight for civil rights, these are the ingredients socially engineered to create the tarnished Black spirit; however, Professor History accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction: resilience. Thus the discourse of African trauma was born! Through protest songs, academics, revolutionaries, and artists, the mission of Black consciousness, though diluted, often finds its way of reminding us that all is not lost and not finished.
Such is the long walk to freedom that Mandisi Dyantyis continues to trail his footsteps. While our socio-political and economic growth is debatable, to say the very least, our collective social psychology remains stuck with no way up the slippery slope of healing. Under the influence of a band-Esque atmosphere and the purpose of unpacking Black pain in the native tongue, Cwaka carves a crystallised time capsule of healing in all its bittersweet glory.
Those born into the upper echelons of society – gifted with the prospect of dreaming in the tax bracket of designer brands and double-storey houses – can only relate to this offering from an empathetic standpoint. Cwaka, with its intricate features of base guitars and trumpets and saxophones and emotive Afro-Jazz tempo, speaks to those in yearning.
The soul of this Afro-Jazz fusion, with records like “Impumelelo” and “Mabaphile”, is reminiscent of a Sophiatown I have never intimately experienced, but that I linger in from the aftermath of its incomplete dreams. Mandisi’s songwriting is coated with the burdens of those whose dreams of a tile-roofed, four-room, flush-toilet brick house is the full extent of them dreaming beyond their circumstances.
The intricate contrast between “Ndibonis’indlela’s” alto chest voice and the soprano head voice of “Isikhalo” makes a vivid display of a classically trained voice, depicting the extremes of depression and passionate mania. Going against the very fabric of patriarchal masculinity, Mandisi forebodes a tonality that exudes unparalleled emotional intelligence by balancing a woman’s known tears with the secrets locked behind the isiZulu idiom “Indoda ayikhali, ifela ngaphakathi”, loosely translating to “a man does not cry or show vulnerability but harbours silent deaths.”
The title song of the album, “Cwaka”, serves as the ethos of prevailing resilience that gives our repressed power the will to peak out of the shadows. In the face of being chastised, provoked and oppressed by one’s burdens, the call to action of silence, of peace, and to let go is the ribbon that ties together the stories, the pleas, the apologies and the healing found in the cup of this album’s cleansing soundscape.
In Cwaka I found umzabalazo. Not for political freedom, but that for our spiritual liberation. I am reminded of family feuds, of unforgivable sins that can’t be washed away by owning designer material items, and of healing that can’t be bought. I found parts of my family history where “I’m sorry” was not enough, and I had to do cleansing ceremonies. I found myself waiting to have open and honest conversations with my scars and finally work through the core issues a Black Label bottle entices you to drink away.
Stream or download Cwaka here: https://Platoon.lnk.to/cwaka
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