Vusa Mkhaya - “Vocalism” (ARC Music) - Review

Tagged with: Vusa Mkhaya Vocalism Insingizi ARC Music Zimbabwe 10th District Susan Blake Brian Bangura Ramadu Thomas Ronasz Setsabile Masina Sithole Othnell Mangoma Moyo Silethemba Magonya Glyn Phillips Review

Zimbabwe’s Vusa Mkhaya steps aside from his role within the vocal trio Insingizi for his new album entitled “Vocalism”.

Most of the album is delivered in the Southern African acapella style and Imbube with minimal accompaniment (occasional mbira {thumb piano}, guitar and percussion). However Mkhaya is joined by an international group of vocalists to breathe life into his compositions. Many tracks were recorded in 10th District Studios in Bulawayo at a series of sessions whereby many Zimbabwean musicians and friends dropped by to see what was happening and ended up playing on the album.

As the name of the album implies its main feature is Mkhaya’s voice, both literally and figuratively, as he tells his own story through songs of struggle and journey such as Diaspora and Ngiyazula (I am a Traveller), resistance: Hayi (No!), tradition: Umakoti (The Bride) and decision: Ketha Eyakho (Make your Choice).

There is also a strong Gospel thread throughout with songs like Uthando Lukababa (God’s Love) with a particularly strong emphasis on the afterlife: Ulele (She/He is Asleep), Ukukhala (Mourning), Sohlangana Khona (We Will Meet There) and Ngle Komfula (Beyond the River).  There is also the harrowing S’Thethelela (Forgive Us) - a song about the massacres in Matabeleland during the 1980s and the need to ask forgiveness and move on.

However Mkhaya has lived in Austria for many years and this is reflected in some of his choices: the joyous Brunnenmarkt (a song about Vienna’s largest street market in an area long home to immigrants) and Schweinsbeuschel ( an Austrian polyphonic yodel song originating in the cries of lumberjacks announcing to the tavern owners that they had enough money to buy a delicacy made from pork lungs!).

There is also a Hungarian love song: Tavaszi Szel, with lead vocals shared by Vusa and Susan Blake - a melding of Central European and African folk styles.  The track Diaspora introduces a reggae feel to the album and the inclusion of Brian ‘Soulfamilya’ Bangura on Ngiyazula and Sohlangana Khona has added elements of both soul and rap to the mix, yet it all still sits well within the laidback acoustic vibe of the album.

The CD comes with a 15 minute long bonus DVD file embedded within: “The Making of Vocalism”

Glyn Phillips (

Vusa Mkhaya - “Vocalism” (ARC Music; 2012) - EUCD2396