Long before the internet and social media revolution, musicians like Miriam Makeba and Bra Hugh played a huge role in telling South African stories on global stages. Afro-soul singer Nomfusi Ngonyama is determined to continue their legacy.
We caught up with Nomfusi, who is currently in Germany promoting her latest single, "Intlungu Yam" (My Pain).
“I’ve been coming here for the past nine years, I have an album that was released here, two years ago, so Germany has become my second home and I have quite a good fan base because your late umama Miriam Makeba, utata Hugh Masekela are big this side, so when you say you say you’re coming from the same tribe as them, people get really excited.
“And I’m grateful for the groundwork that they have done for musicians like myself,” she shares.
The one-month long tour sees Nomfusi performing in festivals around Europe, taking the international audiences through some of her intimate spaces through her music. The Eastern-Cape born performer believes only South Africans can tell their own stories.
“Over the years my music has been about telling of authentic South African stories, I’m just continuing the journey of telling townships stories through song and dance.”
On how her music is received overseas especially with most of her songs sung in isiXhosa, Nomfusi insists, “Language plays a very small fraction when it comes to music”.
“When I started I was really skeptical and scared that the people would not be able to understand my music but it’s true that music is a universal language.
“People don’t have to know what you are saying to get the message of the song or get inspired by your music,” she adds.
Ahead of her tour, Nomfusi shot the music video of "Intlungu Yam" in Alex.
The star says she wanted to showcase the current lifestyle of the township in the hope of attracting “investors for housing revitalisation and socio-economic development of one of the oldest townships in South Africa."
“After shooting the video, my spirit was so heavy, I felt emotionally drained. Alex was the best place the depict the message I was trying to portray through Intlungu. The pain of a black community, the smell, the dirt, everything that is happening there will make you realise that it is not yet Uhuru”, she shares.
Nomfusi has delivered electric performances across Europe and Canada at prestigious festivals such as WOMAD in England, performing alongside Angelique Kidjo at the Afrikadey Festival in Canada. She also performed in Portugal and at the Lugano Jazz Festival recently held in Switzerland.
She is headed to another festival in Porto on June Tuesday, June 26 and Wednesday, June 27.
Nomfusi seems to be a Jane of all trades and a master of quite a few of them, with her adding acting to her portfolio.
She portrayed the icon Miriam Makeba in the "Long Walk To Freedom", the 2014 film about the life of the struggle icon.
“It was truly an honour for me to walk in her (Miriam Makeba) shoes and I accepted the role with both hands because the role allowed me to showcase my vocal talent.”
On whether she will dabble into acting again, Nomfusi revealed she is going to be part of another international film that is coming in 2020, though she couldn’t divulge more.
“If there is music in it, I’m in it,” she chuckles.
Nomfusi is set to release her new album in September.