Thandiswa Mazwai: Iconic South African Singer Unveils ‘Sankofa’ To Connect The American Diaspora To Africa

by Gee NY
Thandiswa Mazwai. Image credit: @thandiswamazwai on IG.

Trailblazing South African singer Thandiswa Mazwai recently discussed her return to “self” and the highly anticipated release of her fourth solo studio album, “Sankofa,” which is Akan for “go back and get it”.

Mazwai’s performance at globalFest held on Jan. 24 marked her debut at New York City’s renowned Lincoln Center theater, leaving an indelible impression on the diverse audience.

In a captivating interview with OkayAfrica at this year’s globalFest, Mazwai expressed her excitement about sharing her “Sankofa” project with the world and stressed the importance of the intentional inclusion of diverse elements.

Having been a pivotal figure in South Africa’s music scene for almost 30 years, Mazwai’s journey from her early days with Kwaito group Jack-Knife to her Afro-soul persona reflects her evolution as a pioneering artist.

The upcoming album set for release in March 2024, is a testament to Mazwai’s intentional efforts to build a sonic bridge between Africans, the diaspora, and specifically, the diaspora in America.

The term “Sankofa” carries the powerful meaning of going back to reclaim what has been lost, a theme that echoes throughout Mazwai’s album.

Recorded in Johannesburg, Dakar, and New York City, the intentional global collaboration involved American bass player Meshell Ndegeocello and South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, among others.

The album seeks to initiate a healing sonic dialogue addressing historical wounds of oppression, the transatlantic slave trade, and colonialism.

In the interview, Mazwai said she meticulously curated every detail, making “Sankofa” a multifaceted experience for listeners.

Reflecting on her experience recording the album, Mazwai described it as a journey of self-discovery, a process of reclaiming her time and her unique way of navigating the world.

As an artist who takes time between albums, Mazwai said she views each release as an opportunity to reintroduce herself, reaffirm connections, and establish new ones.

She acknowledges the evolving dynamics of her international audience, adding she strives to adapt to changing energies in different spaces.

Mazwai’s impact on the South African music scene is immeasurable, and she expresses gratitude for the unwavering support of her fans throughout her career. The symbiotic relationship between Mazwai and her South African fan base reflects a unique and enduring connection.

Known for her powerful and honest musical expressions, Mazwai attributes the resonance of her work to its authenticity and openness.

“What’s always been important to me as an artist is to do the thing that feels natural and authentic to me. I think that for any artist, if that’s the thing that you do, then the work somehow finds a way to travel and finds its place in the lives of other people. But really, when I make the music, I’m making it for myself and for my own healing. I think it’s the openness and the authenticity that maybe people resonate with,” she said during the interview.

The forthcoming album is poised to continue Mazwai’s legacy of creating music that transcends borders and resonates deeply with listeners.

Looking ahead, Mazwai anticipates a year filled with touring to share the “Sankofa” experience with audiences worldwide.

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