Ziyobalwa – Xhanti Nokwali [produced by Nduduzo Makhatini], Top 22 Songs of 2022

Our next selection is a piece of African folk music that’s crying for a culture it can feel eroding. Nduduzo Makhatini provides a serene and subtly melancholic soundscape for Xhanti Nokwali to lament over in Ziyobalwa.

The instrumentation is anchored by African guitar strumming, a piercing piano, a swelling saxophone and what I believe are shakers. It’s a meditative ground for Nokwali to mourn and his vocals wail. You can feel Nokwali’s aching disposition from his opening cry as he speaks on the decline of culture and guidance being passed down from one generation to the next, worried about the values he feels are no longer being remembered. Nokwali is a sensational force of nature in this jazz-infused folk ballad that finds him vocalizing from deep lows to weltering highs, with his vocals even mimicking guitar inflections when words fail him.

Ziyobalwa is sorrowful music that sooths in how it wallows. It’s a cry for preservation from a bold voice fighting for his space and culture. I highly recommend listening to his full album, Umthombo, if you’re a fan of African folk storytelling, Ziyobalwa is the passage my soul rested on the most but Umthobo is rich with generational musicality guided by Nokwali’s defiant spirit. Don’t forget to press play.

Read the full Top 22 of 2022 here.


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