Thandiswa on a new mission
THANDISWA Mazwai, who has just returned to Mzansi after a year in London, is part of the star-studded line-up at the Joy of Jazz Festival in Newtown, Johannesburg, later this month.
Mazwai will join some of the country's best musicians at this year's Standard Bank Joy of Jazz to be held from August 23.
Musical activist Mazwai said South Africa's unstable political climate, coupled with the government's reluctance to listen to its people, had forced her to abandon her country of birth.
The socially-conscious singer said she decided to take a creative sabbatical and found comfort in London, where she lived for the whole of 2011.
In a recent interview at the Baseline in Johannesburg, where she was auditioning for an all-women band, Mazwai said the social unrest in the country had made her decide to leave for a while.
She said the death of her friend, mentor and fellow musician Busi Mhlongo in 2010 had also contributed to her deciding on the sabbatical.
"I was frustrated about our political situation. There was just too much dissent, frustration and unrest. There were strikes all the time and it seemed nobody was listening," she said.
"We know how to change a system that does not give a damn about us. We have done it before, but it is a little bit harder now because we voted this system into power.
"Our people find it difficult to understand why the leaders we have entrusted with our freedom will not support our pursuit of that freedom. We have a long way to go if we still have to wait six months to get textbooks to our schools," she said
Mazwai broke into the music scene 17 years ago as the only female member of Bongo Maffin. At the time the country was being bombarded with the one-line lyrics of kwaito music.
The group's thought-provoking lyrics, social and political consciousness and unusual sense of Afrocentric branding put Bongo Maffin on a higher plain.
Mazwai carried these two attributes when she released her award-winning solo albums, firstZabalaza in 2004 and Ibhokhwe in 2008.
"My parents have always been open about things. That is why it was easy for me to speak about injustice.
"As a creative person I look at society, present an opinion and engage people," she said.
"Even when I started with Bongo Maffin the big thing for us was to change the whole concept about African beauty not being acceptable to European standards.
"I wore iqhiya (a turban) and Xhosa dots on my face. I did not want to conform to some people's idea of what beauty is. I mean, local TV is always showing women with long flowing hair and small waists.
"That's not how I was brought up," Mazwai said.
Mazwai has not produced an album in four years. Her next album will only be released in 2013.
"I didn't get into the idea of releasing an album in order to survive and look good in the media. Financially, I'm good. It's not only about creativity, it's also about being focused.
"It usually takes me about two years to put something together and do it right," said Mazwai.
While preparing to record her coming CD the singer is also putting together an all-female band. Last week she took time off to audition women instrumentalists whom she hopes will become band members.
"I've been in this industry for 17 years and every band I've played with has always been all male. I want to find these women for the band," she said.
"I've been in talks with a US-based university to organise scholarships for them and I've also spoken to some local musicians to give these ladies master classes."
Mazwai will sing Tribute to the Queens at the 13th Joy of Jazz festival. The song will be dedicated to the late Princess Magogo, Busi Mhlongo and Miriam Makeba.
Catch Mazwai on August 24 at 7pm on the Mbira Stage in Newtown.- email@example.com