Nal’ibali - Story time with Zolani Mahola
Freshlyground's pint-sized singer, with a big voice and even bigger heart, shares her memories of story-time as a young girl growing up in Bisho in the Eastern Cape.
Mahola talks about the stories she now tells as part of one of SA’s best-loved bands in support of the Nal’ibali initiative to get people passionate about reading and storytelling. And with a new album due – it will be in stores from 22 October – Mahola is looking forward to the next chapter in the Freshlyground story…
You’re an Eastern Cape girl… What types of stories did you grow up hearing as a child?
I heard stories about a scary people-eating character and stories about Wolf and Jackal... Mr Coal and Mr Cockroach... Tales of outwitting the other, as well as tales of child bravery!
Which of your songs or lyrics is most meaningful to you now?
There are a few of these because a lot of the lyrics I write are autobiographical such as "Nomvula", which is dedicated to my parents.... Then there are songs like "Do Be Do", "Big Man" and "Air hostess" which are about my hopes for a better South Africa, Africa, world… A better people...
Your songs always tell stories relevant to people’s lives. What type of stories can we expect to hear on your upcoming album?
'Take me to the dance' is, as the title suggests, a touch more playful than our previous albums. The title track's chorus is "take me to the dance, I wanna see you dance on the floor…" which is an incredibly deep concept (ha ha!). On a serious note, this album is one of many firsts for us: it is the first time we have individually contributed whole songs to the collective and in many instances incorporated the original home recordings into the studio sessions. This has made for a low to hi-fidelity sound, and the multiple writer angle also means that the album itself has a more colourful or eclectic "voice".
Do you prefer penning songs in English or isiXhosa?
I have no language preference when writing songs ... it all comes as it comes.
The best book someone ever gave me was…
'What is the what' by Dave Eggers. Now I read whatever I get my hands on that I find written by him. That book is definitely one of my all time faves...
What language do you like to read in?
English. My isiXhosa reading skills leave more to be desired than I care to share in this editorial. I still want your readers to respect me in the morning...
The 3 books I’d take with me to a desert island would be…
'What is the what' by Mr Eggers, 'How to survive on a desert island with only three books in your bag' by anonymous and 'How to get off a desert island' by the same author (laughs).
The band has been together for a decade now. What ‘chapter’ would you say you’re currently in – and what can we look forward to next?
I'd say that we are getting less serious about ourselves - "can they get less serious?" I hear you ask…. And the answer is YES. I think you can look forward to seeing us interact with the world a bit more. Getting out of the island of Cape Town mentality. Yes... Freshlyground ARE now on twitter :-)
How do international audiences react to Freshlyground’s multilingual lyrics?
They eat them up! They also respond to the music largely... the beat, the melody and the general energy of the show.
How would you describe your style of singing?
Nal’ibali is a national reading-for-enjoyment initiative to spark children’s potential through reading and storytelling. For multi-lingual literacy tips and stories, visit www.nalibali.org