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A Poet's Progress, Randy Roark

A Poet’s Progress: Among the Ngamo, Zimbabwe

At the Waterhole (Tinashe, Our Guide, in the Front in Yellow Shirt and White Shorts)

December 3, 2010, Linkwasha Lodge, Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

What Are You Looking At?

When James was training to be a guide, he was assigned to an ex-Army drill sergeant named Tomas. One of James’ jobs was to go to the kitchen in the morning and prepare a cup of tea for Tomas, and then go up to his tent and wake him up. Tomas told him to add four half-sugar packets to the tea, and made a point of emphasizing the importance of four half sugars, not two full sugars. So for the first few mornings James would open four packages of sugar and pour half of each package into a cup of tea. Then one day he noticed that he was being watched and laughed at by the older guides. By the fourth day James knew what they were laughing at, and laughed to himself as well, and added two packages of sugar to the tea and brought it to Tomas. Tomas took a sip of the tea and spit it on the ground. “This isn’t four half-sugars,” he roared. “This is two full sugars. Bring me a cup with four half-sugars, and don’t try to fool me again!” This went on for another week and no matter how much James thought about it, he couldn’t figure out how there could be any noticeable difference between two whole sugars and four half-sugars. So one day he poured two full sugars into the cup of tea and carried it to Tomas. Tomas took a sip and spit it on the floor. “I warned you not to try to fool me again. You’ll serve kitchen duty every morning for a week, along with your other duties. Is that clear?” James never challenged him again. Each morning he threw away four half sugars.

Sunday Fashions

When James graduated and became a licensed guide, he asked Tomas to explain how he’d known the difference.

“In the army, it’s important for soldiers to follow orders without questioning, no matter how illogical or suicidal the orders seem. What army training does is it over-rules a human being’s natural instinct to preserve itself as well as the part of the brain that considers the consequences of its actions. So first you train new recruits to react without thinking to orders, no matter the danger. The best soldiers are created when a boy is taken directly from his family while still a child. If you can catch them before they’ve left home all you have to do is to transfer them from one authority figure to the next.

“So what I learned about you is that after that first scolding you did what I asked, without thinking. And when you had some time to think and realized there could be no possible difference between four half-sugars and two full sugars, I just had to punish you once and you never questioned my orders again. Some people realize they’re being tested and that it has nothing to do with the sugar, and they know the answer is elsewhere. Those are the thinkers. They know it’s about control and they’ll never stop questioning your decisions, even on a battlefield. Those guys are Special Forces. They’re the pit bulls—just give them a scent and release their chain and they’ll come home with the head in a basket before anybody even notices they’re gone. Whereas people like you prefer others to do your thinking for you. In the safari business you make good guides because you can submit to many masters without complaint.”

“But how did you know how many sugars I put in your coffee?” “I’d get up a little earlier than you and watch you prepare my coffee through a hole in my tent.”

Joseph, the Patriarch

Joseph—a Ngamo Patriarch—Shows Us His Homestead in Zimbabwe

The walls and floors of their huts are made of termite clay. Their roofs are made of thatch.
They grow spinach for greens; raise chickens, cows, and goats.

Termite Clay Walls

Men are buried next to the cattle pasture, women near the granaries. All of their huts face west because that’s the direction of good fortune.

We have come to cooking hut. The men enter first and sit on chairs on the northwest side of the hut. The women follow, not looking up, sitting against the opposite floor, their backs against the wall.

The Women Have Assembled

Africa is largely Christian, and our hosts are Seventh Day Adventists. They study the New Testament and fast on Saturdays, but are not vegetarian and drink beer on special occasions.

Males are circumcised between the ages of twelve and thirteen. It is meant to be an endurance test. The elders can learn a lot about what they can expect from the young men by watching how they react to the ordeal.

As for medical care, there is a saying that if you are Zimbabwean and have no money and don’t go to the hospital, you will die. But if you have no money and you go to the hospital you’ll die from neglect anyway, so why bother with the journey?

Thatch Roof, from Inside

There are elders in every tribe who remember the old medicines, but they are dying out without passing their knowledge on to their children. James, our Zimbabwean guide, was cured of his asthma by the intervention of his grand-aunt, who made a plaster out of bloodroot and placed a bandage soaked in it on his chest. The strong scent stuck to whatever was causing his asthma and lifted it out of his body with a single treatment. She then made a bloodroot amulet for him that he still wears around his neck so that the asthma will not come back. But she died without passing her knowledge about herbs and medicine on to anyone else.

When on a hunt, James once stumbled and cut his forearm badly. One of the other hunters took a stick and forced it down a termite mound. When it was pulled out, there were several warrior termites attached to the stick. He smoked them off with a cigarette and then took them, one by one, and put their front claws against James’ wound. When the pincers clamped down on either side of the laceration and pulled the wound together, he snapped the bodies of the termites off at their trunks and left their front limbs clamped across the wound until they got home to a needle and thread.

Every home has a medicine kit with potions and whatever stray pills they can get out in the bush. They also have root medicines growing all around them, and herbs and flowers for common illnesses, and everyone knows a medicine person or shaman. These were called N’anga, or witch doctors, in colonial days, but that’s a term that’s not used in Zimbabwe today. Some people—both natives and whites—still have the witch doctors throw bones for them, or deliver their prayers to the gods. But these days the N’anga do it only if you pay them.

A Ngamo Homestead

Classes one through seven in school are free, but the government pays nothing for education. The individual townships hire and house their own teachers and build their own schoolhouses. Ngamo children have thirteen core studies in school: math, science, art, music, HIV/health, social studies, writing, literature, phys. ed., Christian bible studies, other religions, home economics, and history.

The villagers see everyone every day and everyone knows everyone else’s business. The entire community disciplines the tribe’s children, oversees disputes, and legislates any issues that affect the entire community. Anyone can call a tribal meeting for any reason.

The Ngamo’s lives are dependent on things they have no control over—like the weather and good fortune. A farming community’s ability to survive is dependent upon knowing when the rains will come and the first frost. If nature gets off schedule, there will be famine. Meanwhile, those who are making decisions that affect farmers are insulated from the consequences of their actions. In Harare, it doesn’t matter if something is done this year or the next. But in the bush every bad harvest can ruin a hundred farms, and once you fall off a farm, there’s no way back.

The Cooking Hut

No one who lives off the land in Zimbabwe feels safe. Since the mid-70s, famines in Africa have often lasted longer than a single year. If it’s difficult to survive a single year of drought, two is astronomically worse, and there’s always the uncertainty: will there be another bad harvest before we can store enough surplus? If there’s not enough food where you live and your family or tribe cannot take care of you, you have no choice but to travel to a big city and live in one of the cardboard slums that grow larger every day and beg for work and money.

Women fetch water, cook, and serve the men. Women plant the fields, do the housekeeping, and paint the walls of the huts, inside and out. The artwork on the huts reminds me of Matisse’s cut-outs—primary colors and elementary shapes. There is also a delicious sense of joy in their more complicated and elegant geometric patterns. Men plow and build and make any decisions that affect the family.

The patriarch’s mother interrupts him: “Taking care of a husband is a job of its own. We warm water for his bath, we bring him food and water. He asks us to get whatever he wants and we do all the work.”

The Women, Outside

The people who have traveled here with Overseas Adventure Travel in the past have paid for the electrification of the school, for the digging of a well on the school property. With money from tourists like us they’ve built new classrooms and latrines. Our group pools enough money to build additional housing for the seven teachers and their families who now live together in two one-room huts.

December 4, 2010: Linkwasha Lodge, Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Look, There’s a Giraffe!

When I started this safari, it was enough to see the animal itself. “Look, there’s an elephant, there’s a giraffe.” Or the really exciting ones—a leopard, a lion, a hyena. But then I became interested in what they were doing. I noticed how the elephants always encircled the youngest ones when we approached, or paraded single file between us and the children as they crossed in front of us. Once I asked Capt. Jack how he found the leopard one day and he said he didn’t find it, he listened to the birds, and he knew there’d be a some big news at the center of all that noise.

Kudos, on Alert

Surprised and uncertain, one of the kudo antelopes comes forward and stares at us, while the rest of the group continues to eat, ignoring us completely. After I see this same behavior several times, I ask James about it and he tells me that the alpha male (and sometimes female) will guard the herd and everyone else will go on eating while watching them with their peripheral vision. If a lead animal senses danger, it signals the herd and the whole herd falls into formation behind him and does whatever he does—if he runs to the right, they run to the right—if he turns and runs, they’re not far behind.

Mother and Father

Today we came upon three leopards in a tree. This is unheard of. Tinashe, who has been leading tours of the bush for over eighteen years, had never seen three leopards in a tree. My guidebook says that no more than two leopards ever share a tree, and even that is very rare. Twice before Tinashe has seen two leopards in the same tree. At first we saw only the father and the mother sleeping on separate branches, facing different directions. But then we noticed movement in the leaves below and a third leopard appeared, a small one, a son. We watched as they gathered on the mother’s branch, and then left the tree one by one—father, mother, son. They loped off, over the ridge, the young one leading. They were letting their son hunt and following in support. At one point the two older leopards stopped and turned around and stared at us. Rhona said, “They don’t like being followed.” And James said, “No animal does.”

Mother Is Not Happy

This afternoon we were rounding a corner when James stopped the Land Rover, and spun it around so we were facing the way we came. “There,” he whispered, pointing toward a bush. “A lioness feeding.” We look in the direction he’s pointing. There’s a large tree surrounded by a thicket. I look as deep as I can into the shadows under the tree, but I can’t see anything. We get out our binoculars and cameras. We whisper to each other, “Do you see anything?” No one does. James says, “See the big tree?” Yes. “See, the brush underneath it?” Yes. “She’s on a slight rise in the middle of the brush. She’s backlit, but you can see her shadow moving.” And then, one by one, we see her. Or at least some of us do. It turns out that we can see her best on the LCD screen of my video camera, so I pass it around. Even though I know where to look, without the video camera I can only vaguely see her shadow when she’s pulling meat off a bone. I ask James, “How did you see that?” “I know that bush really well. I look for what does not belong.”

Mother and Son

December 5, 2010: Linkwasha Lodge, Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Every three days, Tinashe and James are taking us deeper and deeper into the bush and farther away from civilization and electricity, as if they are gradually acclimating us to the wild. And so with our fourth and final move, we’ve ended up in a camp that is two and a half hours by Land Rover from the nearest paved road. The lights out here are run off car batteries, so there is no power when the Land Rovers are out. And the water is heated by the sun, so if there is no sun, like today, there is no hot water. Dinner is by candlelight, which attracts a variety of flying things, some quite large. You get used to the bugs, although the large dung beetles—about the size of a golf ball—can be plenty scary when they fly into your face or get caught in your hair. At night after dinner I have to be driven to my hut by a guide with a rifle, while he waves a flashlight to make sure there are no lions or leopards or elephants on the path.

I’m surprised to find the only white people we’ve encountered since we entered the bush working at the camp farthest from civilization. Two of the three hostesses are white, and the manager is a white male. Both of the white hostesses are in their early twenties, blonde, college graduates—one in anthropology and one in architecture—slightly heavy but in a ripe, sexy way. They were both raised in South Africa in wealthy white neighborhoods, and are both about the same age.

Leopard Hunting

Trish had always wanted to live in the jungle. She is presently halfway through her second year in her first three-year contract at the camp, and already knows she will be signing up for another three years. The other girl—Madge—had left South Africa with her family for Australia during the difficulties, and returned last summer to study the complex relationship between the nomadic San and the animals of the savannah. Now she’s three months into her first three-year contract and is very happy with life in the bush.

A Family of Leopards Hunting

The manager, barely thirty, inherited the private concession (or animal preserve) from his father before it was bought by Safari Adventures. During his first years out of the jungle, he had lived in a gated community in Zimbabwe’s capitol, Harare, and then moved to London, and has just returned to take over managing the camp after two years abroad. He’d grown up in the jungle with his father and felt more comfortable here than in the cities he’d visited. He found the violence in Harare and the jungle easier to understand than the violence in cities like London. In Harare, the danger brought the neighborhoods closer together, but in London it’s the neighborhoods that are particularly dangerous. One time he was driving on a side street and a guy on a cell phone wandered in front of his car without looking. He hit the brakes and honked the horn to catch his attention, and the guy turned around and came after him and began beating on his windshield with his fist. In Harare he’d been mugged and almost car-jacked getting out to open the gate to his garage, but he was never as scared as he was when he had a crazy British jaywalker beating on his windshield with his cellphone.

So he moved to a country house in the Cotswolds, but the violence in the country was just different, it wasn’t any better. Mostly it consisted of reminding him that they might speak the same language but they were not equals. The slights were always spoken with a smile, as if he would agree. And when he didn’t, he was branded as antisocial, as discourteous, as a troublemaker. So after two summers of that, he decided that if he was going to live in the country, he might as well live in a country he understood.


Elizabeth was the one black hostess in camp. She was in her mid-twenties and had been raised in a village in rural Zimbabwe. For her, living at the camp was a step up and out of the life of the Zimbabwean homestead, from which few escaped.

Elizabeth told me that the manager had arrived gangly and inhibited but had at some point become wilder than anyone else. On our first night here, he jumped into the circle, pushed everyone aside, and did a dramatic pantomime of being on a hunt, bringing down one of the girls, and then falling to his knees for a prayer to Mother Earth, before springing to his feet and leaping over the flames in celebration. Then he picked up a drum and rejoined to the circle, dancing in the shadows.

The two white girls give their bodies to each of the black dancers in turn, often turning around and bending over, swaying back and forth and up and down, looking over their shoulders at the man pressed against their backsides. The men pretend to ride them like horses, slapping their flanks. We are told the dance is known as The Horse Dance, and a couple of the American women giggle. Sometimes the girls dance with each other, but usually the girls dance from boy to boy. Occasionally they leave the dance to pick up a drum or try to get one of us westerners into the dance. I dance with both the boys and girls. They boys teach me the dance steps, the girls grab the outsides of my legs with their thighs and bend over backwards, their long blonde hair swinging back and forth, their fingertips digging into my waist.

Warming the Drums Before a Dance

Elizabeth had been the boldest dancer on the night we arrived, but since then has retreated. Every once in a while, usually at some dramatic moment, she will jump into the dance, her elbows and shoulders liquid, her long dark-skinned arms swaying to her fingertips, the meat loose on her bones, her flesh suddenly more exposed than you realized.

Elizabeth’s approach to the camp’s boys is different than the white girls. She doesn’t dance up to them, or move from one to the next. She dances mostly in the shadows away from the fire, with her back to everyone. Sometimes it is difficult to know for sure if she is still dancing or has just wandered off. As the male drummers circle the fire, one by one they will move closer to her and she will dance away or ignore them, which only makes them try harder. Occasionally she will consent to dance with one of the male dancers as her prop—but never with her back to him or bending over. She will stare at him until she gets his attention and then dances up to him, daring him not to look at her body as she shakes it in front of him, sometimes leaning away from him at the hips. If he stops looking at her and begins to show her his macho moves, taking some of the attention away from her, she will turn her back to him and retreat back into the shadows. Some of the boys persist, but when it becomes obvious that she is waiting for him to move on, they dance away from her and rejoin the circle. Then all the boys laugh and hoot at him and he tries to make a joke of it, pretending not to care.

Timba After a Siting of Wild Dogs Near Camp

This group—a day’s drive from the nearest official road—has transcended some western taboo about the proper expression of our sexual selves. “You know how things are where you come from,” they smile, “why not at least try the way we are here? It is your last weekend here. In a few days you will be back home.”

During the day the white girls may hand us a drink or clean our table in their starched cotton uniforms, but at night around a campfire they will dance to the drums and enjoy the attention of the black boys who have only them to dance with.

Week #18: Music from Southern Africa #4

Stimela (The Coal Train): Hugh Masekela

Hugh Ramopolo Masekela is a trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer who was born on April 4, 1939, in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. At 14, after seeing the film “Young Man with a Horn” (with Kirk Douglas playing Bix Beiderbecke), Masekela was given a trumpet by Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain of his school, who asked the leader of the Johannesburg “Native” Municipal Brass Band to teach him how to play. At 17, Masekela joined Alfred Herbert’s African Jazz Revue. From the beginning, his music protested apartheid, slavery, the South African government, and the hardships of life in apartheid-era South Africa. In 1958, he joined the orchestra of the play “King Kong” with Miriam Makeba (whom he eventually married and divorced) and toured the world for a year, later performing for two years in London’s West End.

In 1959, Masekela, Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), and others formed the first African jazz group to record an LP. Following the March 21, 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where 69 peaceful protesters were shot dead by the South African government, the government banned gatherings of ten or more people. Unable to perform or record, Masekela left the country, helped by Huddleston, Yehudi Menuhin, and John Dankworth, who got him admitted to London’s Guildhall School of Music. He then traveled to the U.S., where he befriended Harry Belafonte, and attended Manhattan School of Music in NYC, studying classical trumpet. He had hits in the U.S. with pop-jazz tunes like “Up, Up and Away” and a number one hit “Grazin’ in the Grass” in 1968, which sold four million copies. He appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and in 1974 organized the Zaire 74 festival that performed as part of the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match. He appears on the Byrds recording of “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star” and “Lady Friend,” and Paul Simon’s “Further to Fly.” In 1987, his “Bring Him Back Home” became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela. In 1988, he toured with Paul Simon for “Graceland,” along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba. He recently collaborated in the Broadway musical “Sarafina.” In 2003, he was featured in the documentary film “Amandla!” and released his autobiography—Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela—in 2004. He is the director of The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides a daily meal to students in Soweto.

Khululuma: African Rhythm Travellers

The African Rhythm Travellers is a HipHop, Rap, Dub, and Dancehall group from Johannesburg.

Love Is Just a Dream: Johnny Clegg & Juluka

Jonathan Clegg was born in Bacup, Lancashire, to an English father and Rhodesian mother, and was raised in England, Israel, Rhodesia, Zambia, and South Africa. He has performed with Juluka and Savuka, as well as a solo artist. He sings in Zulu mixed with English and is known as Le Zoulou Blanc (the White Zulu). In 1969, he formed the first racially mixed South African band, Juluka (“Sweat”), with Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu. Because it was illegal for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa during apartheid, their first LP (“Universal Men”) was banned from the state-owned radio stations, but became a hit by word-of-mouth. His music was political from the beginning and his song “Work for All” was taken up by the South African Trade Union movement. Juluka toured Europe and released two platinum and five gold albums before Mchunu was asked by his father to return home and take care of the family cattle in 1986. “Third World Child”—recorded with Savuka (We Have Awakened)—another mixed-race band—featured the song “Asimbonanga” (“We Haven’t Seen Him”) which called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and celebrated three martyrs of the South African liberation struggle: Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett. As a result, Clegg and his band members were arrested and their concerts regularly broken up by government forces. Savuka’s albums “Third World Child” and “Shadow Man” became the number one and two albums in France and they became the most successful foreign band ever in France. In 1988, Michael Jackson canceled his show in Lyon, France because Savuka was performing the same night and very few tickets were sold to his show. A newspaper headline in France read at the time “White man singing black music out sells black man singing white music.” Clegg’s song “Scatterlings of Africa” was featured on the soundtrack of 1988 film, “Rain Man,” and became his only entry in the UK Singles chart.

Anoma: OOM

No information available.

Mofolo Hall (Akulalwa): Ndumiso

No information available.

Le Tshephile Mang: Judith Sephuma

Judith is a singer born in Polokwane, South Africa. She graduated from Johannesburg’s Academy Music School in 1993, and went on to study music at the University of Cape Town, graduating in 1997 with a degree in Jazz Performance, adding an Honours Degree in Jazz singing in 1999. In 1998, she toured Europe, singing with the jazz band Meropa, including performing in Holland for Mandela’s Children Trust Fund, and also performed for the presidential inauguration in Pretoria in June 1999, and has sung for Nelson Mandela and his wife.

Kuyobanjani Na?: Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Mahlasela is a guitarist and poet-activist who lives in the Mamelodi Township, where he was born, and is known as “The Voice,” as well as being a member of the Congress of South African Writers. He performed at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 and is an official ambassador for Mandela’s HIV/AIDS initiative. He appears in the film “Amandla!” Dave Matthews—a fellow South African—signed him to his ATO Records and released “The Voice” in 2003. His 2011 album for ATO Records—“Guiding Star”—was produced by Taj Mahal. He performed for the World Cup at FIFA’s Kick Off Concert at Orlando Stadium, and introduced Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His “When You Come Back” was ITV’s official theme song for the World Cup in the UK. He performed at the Mandela Day concert, and has toured with Bela Fleck (for his Grammy-winning album ‘Throw Down Your Heart,” which features a live track from Vusi and Bela), as well Paul Simon, the Dave Matthews Band, Ray LaMontagne, and Amos Lee, and participated in a tribute to Miriam Makeba with Angelique Kidjo and Hugh Masekela. He has given two TED talks, and began the Vusi Mahlasela Music Development Foundation for the promotion and preservation of African music. He also works with OXFAM, The Acumen Fund, The African Leadership Academy, and the ONE campaign.

Homeless: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo was formed in Durban, South Africa, in the early 1960s, by Joseph Shabalala, who was then a young farmboy turned factory worker. Ladysmith was the name of Shabalala’s rural hometown; Black was a reference to oxen, a local metaphor for strength; and Mambazo was the Zulu word for axe, a metaphor chosen to ensure the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival. The group was eventually banned from competitions to give other groups a chance. They have recorded over fifty albums since 1970, attempting to preserve traditional African vocal music, especially isicathamiya, which developed in the mines of South Africa, where black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and their families. Poorly housed and paid, the mine workers would entertain themselves after a six-day week by singing songs on Sunday morning. When the miners returned to the homelands, this musical tradition returned with them.

In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and recorded “Graceland” with members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Simon later produced their first US release, “Shaka Zulu,” which won the 1988 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Since then the band has received another fifteen Grammy Award Nominations, and three Grammy Award wins.

In addition to work with Paul Simon, the band has recorded with Stevie Wonder, Josh Groban, Dolly Parton, Ben Harper, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Melissa Etheridge, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal and others. Their film work includes an appearance in Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker” video and Spike Lee’s “Do It A Cappella.” They provided soundtrack material for Disney’s “The Lion King, Part II” as well as Eddie Murphy’s “Coming To America,” Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,” Marlon Brando’s “A Dry White Season,” Sean Connery’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and James Earl Jones’ “Cry The Beloved Country.” Their film documentary “On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom” was nominated for an Academy Award. The group has also made commercials for Life Savers and Heinz Beans. Their performance with Paul Simon on Sesame Street is one of the top three requested Sesame Street segments in history.

They have performed by special invitation from South African President Nelson Mandela and for the Queen of England and the Royal Family at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The group has also performed at two Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies, a concert for Pope John Paul II in Rome, the South African Presidential inaugurations, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and they’ve represented their nation in London at a celebration for Queen Elizabeth’s 50th Anniversary as Monarch, where they shared the stage with Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Phil Collins.

Mbube: Mahotella Queens

The Mahotella Queens are a mbaqanga vocal and mgqashiyo dance group formed in 1964. They have over time had a fluctuating membership but the three permanent members were and remain Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Mbadu, and Mildred Mangxola. In the Sixties they were often backed by the Makhona Tsohle Band, featuring West Nkosi on saxophone, and Simon Mahlathini Nkabinde on lead vocals. They have toured internationally, and in 2010 toured Europe with Hugh Masekela.

Mazuzu: West Nkosi

West Nkosi was born Johannes Hlongwane in Nelspruit, South Africa in 1940, and was a South African producer, saxophonist, songwriter, and original member of the Makgona Tsohle Band, who backed Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. He managed and produced the first 22 records for Ladysmith Black Mambazo. He was paralyzed in an automobile accident in August 1998, and died from his injuries two months later, at 58 years old.

Article written by Randy Roark

Newtopia staff writer RANDY ROARK worked with Allen Ginsberg for the last 17 years of his life, first as an apprentice, then as his teaching assistant, and finally transcribing and editing 28,000 pages of Ginsberg’s poetry lectures, currently available on-line through the Ginsberg trust. Following Ginsberg’s death, he worked with artist Stan Brakhage, producing art events featuring his films until his death. Since 1998 he has worked with Sounds True as a producer, where he has edited artists such as Alex Grey, writers including William Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, and a wide variety of spiritual teachers, including Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, and Lakota Elder Joseph Marshall.


One thought on “A Poet’s Progress: Among the Ngamo, Zimbabwe

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