By Themba Khumalo

Thandiswa Nyameka Mazwai is an exceptional songstress through whom the enchanting spirit of music and our ancestory flow.

See her during a live performance or pick any of her albums and you will witness how the gods and goddesses of music speak through her. In her live performances, Thandiswa unleashes the energies of the great spirits, laying bare a range of human emotions in the process, in all who are in attendance. She takes you on a journey beyond the physical.

It is easy to understand why she is a conduit for transforming and laying bare a listener’s emotions.

“My music is for those of us who fight to decolonise our minds and remember it’s about memory. Remembering what my mother taught me, and also remembering what my ancestors knew,” Thandiswa said.
“That is where the soul of my creativity lives – inside that collective memory of pain and pride, oppression and freedom, mysticism and faith.”

Over and above that, KingTha, as she is affectionately called by her adoring fans, is also attracted to the music of the traditional healers, which has provided her music a spiritual direction.
An artist with the soul of a rebel, Thandiswa who was born in 1976, is the daughter of parents who were journalists and political activists.

They filled her childhood with books, articles and deep political deliberations.
This environment, without doubt, in the end, nourished her outlook as an artist.
The writings of great thinkers such as Steve Biko and Franz Fanon, have influenced her work which is informed by the philosophies of black consciousness and decolonising the mind.

“My work gave me an opportunity to share my thoughts and have a meaningful conversation with my generation about Blackness, Africaness and about some of the social ills that plague us, also about freedom and joy. Music gave me an opportunity to feed my revolutionary self,” she explained.

Thandiswa is one of a few artists who connects the urban and the rural music landscapes with ease – gracefully and marvellously bringing together the modern and traditional forms. She counts among the artists who have had an influence on her music, Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, Dr Phillip Tabane, Busi Mhlongo and Bi Kidude.
“Dear Azania, I have searched for you all my life.”

Thandiswa, who has been a musical force to be reckoned with and one of the most influential musicians of her generation, is taking her previously sold-out show A Letter to Azania to the South African State Theatre, in Pretoria on 25 February, at 7pm. Tickets are priced from R275 to R550 for VIPs.

The show was a hit when it was presented at Gold Reef’s Lyric Theatre, south of Joburg, in 2018.
A Letter to Azania is a music special that tracks a letter Thandiswa is writing to ‘Azania’ as a place of liberty. She takes the audience on a musical voyage to the utopian idea of Azania, at the same time conveying the despondency that comes with a dream deferred.

In A Letter to Azania, she uses music to knit the strands that represent her early political consciousness and her visions of a place called Azania. With A Letter to Azania, she takes on the idea that freedom is a restless place and that we have not reached Azania.
She utilises her powerful music and voice to construct a new world. She forms a new conception of herself in a place where love and justice thrive and appeals for social cohesion with Pan African principles. She invites all of us to revive our imagination and remember the wisdoms of old as we shape a new world.

Focusing on love, the show opens with the words of Argentinian revolutionary, physician, author, diplomat, theoretician and tactician of guerrilla warfare, Ernesto Ché Guevara, “the revolution is driven by great feelings of love”.
Thandiswa adds: “A love for the people, a love for country, and a love for justice.”

In 2018, she told the Sunday Times: “The idea of Azania possibly goes back to Kush/Ancient Egypt and that’s thousands of years back. The history alone requires a few lectures and then there is the psychology of the oppressed and why imagination is an important element of resistance.”

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