Nobuntu infuses mbube with a feminine touch
Nobuntu formed eight years ago. The five women who make up the ensemble—Zanele Manhenga, Thandeka Moyo, Duduzile Sibanda, Heather Dube and Joyline Sibanda—each answered an audition call for women who could sing a cappella.
“We are all based out of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. We already knew each other from way back; some of us were already friends. Working in the arts, in different productions, some of us had already worked together before. It was a pleasure to end up in a group with people who already knew one another,” says the ensemble, who prefer to speak as a collective in interviews.
“The inspiration for the group came from a need to fill a gap in our country,” says Nobuntu. “A cappella was one form of music that wasn’t occupied by women already, especially our traditional style, called mbube.”
Boulder audiences will have the opportunity to hear songs from the group’s latest album “Obabes beMbube,” which they say means “The Babes of Mbube.” The title track plays homage to mbube and Nobuntu’s female perspective. “It’s about how we’ve tackled this male-dominated genre.”
The name “Nobuntu” is a play on words, meant to speak to the gender gap in mbube, as well as Zimbabwean values they hope to bring to audiences across the globe. It is based on “Ubuntu,” an African concept that represents joy, love, humility, caretaking and respect. Here, they’ve paired the word with “No,” which means “mother” in Ndebele.
“‘Ubuntu’ means all things good in the growth and existence of people. We are ‘The Mothers of Ubuntu,’ and we intend to spread the attributes of Ubuntu through our music.”