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South African Zulu with Bongi and Tshidi

Genre and Artist Overview

Zulu is a dominant culture in South Africa, the home of 10–11 million Zulu people. The music played by Sbongiseni “Bongi” Duma and Tshidi Manye combines deeply rooted Zulu traditions with more contemporary Zulu styles—all of which hinge on harmony. In many African traditions, melodies are sung in unison; in Zulu music, harmony emerges naturally whenever people sing together.

One of the first popular South African songs to incorporate this harmonic tradition was “Mbube” (“Lion”), recorded by Solomon Linda in 1939. Linda’s harmonic approach came to be known as mbube. His hit song, first adapted and popularized in the United States by Pete Seeger as “Wimoweh” (a mistaken transliteration of uyimbube, meaning, “You are a lion”), further evolved to become “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which students might know from The Lion King.

Bongi and Tshidi met in the cast of The Lion King on Broadway more than a dozen years ago and continue to perform in the show today. Both were born in South Africa and grew up singing songs from the Zulu tradition. Tshidi has focused her career on musical theater; Bongi is also a composer and songwriter who performs his own original music with his band.

Meet Bongi and Tshidi!

Introduce your students to Bongi and Tshidi with this “Meet Bongi and Tshidi” video. Visit the video index to watch all the videos for Bongi and Tshidi and the other Program Two artists.

Meet Bongi and Tshidi student activity

Introduce students to Bongi and Tshidi with the Meet Bongi and Tshidi! (PDF) digital resource.

Lessons

Lesson 1: Learning “Thula Mntwana” / “Nampaya Omame”

Students learn to sing a piece created by joining together two traditional songs and are introduced to the concept of musical form by exploring the form of the piece. They also explore the percussive sounds of the Zulu language.

Lesson 2: Learning “Inqola”

Students learn to sing an original song that incorporates Zulu music traditions and experiment with harmony.

Resources for Teachers

The following resources provide background information about the musical genre and culture. Some are intended to be shared with students; others are for teachers who may want to explore further on their own.

Listening

Readings

Video

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