Translations to more languages in pipeline

More merrier as isiZulu Christmas carols hit markets

The compilation of six Christmas carols is called Ukhisimusi and it was released on November 27 on physical copy and digital downloads.
The compilation of six Christmas carols is called  Ukhisimusi and it was released on November 27 on physical copy and digital downloads.
Image: 123rf/tezzstock

South Africans will for the first time sing along to isiZulu Christmas carols, thanks to legendary gospel singer and music producer Sipho Mbele.

Mbele and music maestro Zolani Maseko have interpreted and rearranged your typical famous English Christmas carols like Silent Night into unique isiZulu songs.  The compilation of six Christmas carols is called  Ukhisimusi and it was released on November 27 on physical copy and digital downloads. The project  features talented vocalists from Durban-based Ivangeli Gospel Group.

Speaking to Sowetan, Mbele, who is known for producing hits for Deborah Fraser and the late Sifiso Ncwane, said he felt it was time for the country to enjoy Christmas carols in African languages.

“We realised that Christmas carols have never been done in African language and we wanted to make that history. For a longest time, we have been popularising these western Christmas carols and watching artists like Maria Carey, and Bonnie M recreating them. We wanted to come up with a South African thing that is unique and different.”

He added: “We started around October with a project where we recorded all gospel traditional songs that were done by artists like Rebecca and the late Vuyo Mokoena, among others. Since Christmas was near, we said let’s come up with something that even a person who never went to school will understand.”

Mbele explained that when choosing songs he went for songs that were easy to translate into isiZulu that also celebrate Christmas.  

“It is not easy to translate some of the English words to isiZulu. We had to leave out songs such as Jingle Bells because we did not know how to translate it. In some of the songs we had to leave out some words. We had to adjust as long as it make sense in Zulu.”

“We hope to continue even next year to produce Christmas carols in different African languages for those who do not understand English. This project will now allow people to understand the lyrics and meaning. It also gave us an opportunity to unearth fresh talent.”

Maseko, who is a songwriter, music director, and choir conductor and entrepreneur, is established in his own right, having worked as musical director for the popular SA Crown Gospel Awards.

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