Wednesday May 25, 2016 – Award-winning investigative journalist, songwriter and producer, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, has managed to put together an album with collaborations any musician would envy.
His latest offering saw him travel across the continent, recording music for more than three years that features over 30 artists.
Following a break from the music scene, Wa Afrika is reintroducing himself to the industry with a vibrant duo – Rafiki – in tow. He met Gorden Netshikweta, 28, and Julius Dlamini, 43, while searching for talent to sign to his new label, Bomba Records. “I signed them because I feel we are alike – they don’t drink or smoke and they are truly passionate about music – like me,” he says of his decision.
Although fairly new, Mzee & Rafiki have already started making waves. Their latest collaboration with Malian icon, Salif Keita, has moved music lovers across the world and is matched by an equally powerful video which was shot in Mali. “This project is titled Timhamba (Ancestral Rituals) and has been an exercise in cultural education and exchange,” the 44-year-old journalist says.
We are all African, which premiered exclusively on TRACE Urban this week to commemorate Africa Week, is an ode to African pride and unity – a cause close to Mzee & Rafiki’s hearts.
Timhamba boasts songs made with the likes of Phuzekhemisi, Suthukazi Arosi and Kunle Ayo of Nigeria. The late Busi Mhlongo had shown interest in working on a song for the project too, but died before she could get into the booth: “I chose not to work any further on that song and I never will, out of respect for her,” Wa Afrika says. He hopes to make Bomba Records more than just another record company: “I want it to be an institution – a space for retelling African stories through music.
We might not be able to rewrite our history, but we can certainly shift our perspectives.” Netshikweta echoes the writer’s sentiments and is committed to seeing through this vision.
“I am so grateful to be part of a project that seeks to instil pride and unite us as Africans at last,” he says. Dlamini believes their album is a reflection of the continent’s influences: “From the koras and live percussion in our songs, it’s clear that Timhamba was deeply inspired by our people and we look forward to creating more music like this.”
Asked what he thinks it means to be African in 2016, Mzee’s answer is something of a slogan for Africa Week: “I was an African when I was born and I will be an African when I die. Being African is eternal, not seasonal.”