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Lesson 2: Learning “Inqola”

Aim: How is harmony used in South African music?
Summary: Students learn to sing an original song that incorporates Zulu music traditions and experiment with harmony.
Standards: National 4, 5, 7, 8, 11
Vocabulary: harmony

Bongi wrote this original song and offers this introduction: “I spent most of my childhood one hour south of Durban in a town called Umthwalume on the coast of the Indian Ocean. I used to go to the beach and watch the beauty and the complexity of nature; the full circle from sunrise to sunset was fascinating to me. The song speaks of the relationship between humans and nature. An inqola is any vehicle that moves—a cart, a wagon, a car. I believe life is like a moving vehicle that changes destinations throughout different stages and experiences.”

Bongi and Tshidi Teach “Inqola”

“Inqola” Demonstration

South African Zulu singers Bongi and Tshidi teach Bongi’s original song “Inqola.”

Sing “Inqola”

  • Listen to “Inqola,” Track 22. Note that Bongi’s lyrics combine Zulu and English.
  • Learn the lyrics to the chorus using “Inqola” pronunciation, Track 23.
    • What is the song about? What is your favorite place to see and experience nature? Why do you like it? How does it make you feel?
  • Sing the chorus melody.
  • If your students are ready, they can also learn the harmony line for the chorus, and sing the chorus in two parts. Alternatively, the teacher can sing the harmony while the students sing the melody.
    • Harmony is an important and distinctive part of Zulu music. In many other African musical traditions, melodies are generally sung in unison. In the Zulu tradition, harmonies are added naturally whenever people sing together.



Thululululu Thululululu
Thululululu Hhalala Hhe Mh*
Thululululu Thululululu Thululululu
Hhalala Hhe Mh*

Sitting in the morning, looking at the ocean
And the sun rising from the horizon
Our people never understood
The power of the nature, the meaning
behind it
Ubuhle bemvelo Ma!


Shhi ye Ihh Maybabo
Shhi ye Ihh Maybabo Maybabo*


Asibuyelemandulo kusadliwa
Nngoludala kwelakithi
Amasiko ayehlonishwa
We used to celebrate the mother nature.
Kwakumnandi kudliwa ngoludala


*An upbeat chant with no translation




Nature’s beauty!




Let’s go back to the old times
When we lived life the ancient ways.
Traditions were respected.
It was nice living in the old ways.

Create Musical Harmony

This exercise may be more appropriate for older and more experienced students. You will be exploring harmonic intervals by creating an ostinato, or simple repeated pattern, on the first note of the scale, and then experiencing the harmony created by adding different notes in the scale on the same repeated pattern. Use the body scale exercise in conjunction with this activity, having students tap the corresponding part of their bodies as they sing their notes.

  • Divide the class into two sections. Have one group sing a simple repeated rhythmic pattern, or ostinato.
  • That note will be the first note of the scale, or Do; using the body scale exercise in Core Activities, students will touch their toes as they sing the note.
  • While half the class sings the ostinato, ask the other half to sing the same rhythm an octave above, with their hands in the air (as in the body scale), repeating it over and over.
  • As they sing, have the two groups switch parts, when you call out, “Switch!”
  • Now try the same activity with the third step of the scale (knees) instead of the octave, repeating the pattern multiple times until the students feel secure singing the harmony. Try this with the fifth, fourth, and second scale degrees. If your students are ready, try three-part harmony.
    • How does it feel to sing each harmony? How do the different harmonies feel the same or different?
    • Guide the students to think about the space between the notes—how close together or far apart they are.
  • If your students are ready, have the first group continue to sing the ostinato on the root while the second group goes up the scale using the same rhythmic pattern, and changing pitches after two rhythmic patterns. Accompany them on piano or pitched instrument if possible.
  • Notice how the different notes sound and feel against each other. Feel the space that opens up between the pitches as you go up the scale, and how the space closes up as you go down.
    • Are some harder to sing then others? Do you have a favorite harmony, and if so, why?

Zulu Beadwork

In Zulu Beadwork (PDF), your students will learn about the significance of Zulu beadwork and create their own beadwork designs.


Discovering Ubuntu

  • Ubuntu is a South African concept considered a guiding force among the Zulu people. The word literally means “humanity”; the concept speaks to the connectedness of all humankind.
  • Using the quotes below, lead your students in a guided discussion on the ways that they can experience and incorporate the spirit of Ubuntu in their daily lives.
    • “Ubuntu … speaks of the very essence of being humans … We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’”—Bishop Desmond Tutu
    • “There is a word in South Africa—Ubuntu—a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that there is a oneness to humanity, that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”—President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral
      • What does Ubuntu mean to you?
      • How can we practice Ubuntu in our class? In our school? With our friends? At home?

Animals in Zulu Folktales

  • In Zulu folktales, animals are imbued with human qualities to teach people lessons, such as the jackal who is cunning or the cheetah who is protective. You can find a link to some examples of Zulu folktales to share with your students under Resources for Teachers.
  • With your students, come up with a list of human qualities, both good and bad. Then, using Animals in Zulu Folktales (PDF), your students can choose an animal, draw that animal, and assign the human qualities that they think best suit that animal

The African Orchestra

The sounds heard in nature create a unique orchestra in Wendy Hartmann’s beautifully illustrated book.

Book cover for "The African Orchestra" depicting a woman playing a wind instrument

Musical Word Wall

Review the word harmony on the Musical Word Wall.

Don't Forget

Image Credits

“African Instrument Hanging” by Paul Brennan.

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