The Tonemamas have treated themselves to an imaginary vacation, and how splendid it’s been! Currently we’re sipping cocktails in the country where the first bebe humans were spotted back in the days: the land of South Africa. That’s right, this week we have left New York City’s soundscape of random screaming, screeching trains and furious cabbies pummeling their car horns every three and a half minutes, and replaced it with the rich, diverse and multidimensional musical gems in l’Afrique du Sud (they speak so many languages in South Africa we panicked and picked French…#MamansDeTon)
Standing at the forefront of the South African contemporary music scene is a strikingly beautiful woman wearing a combination of expressive prints and textures and singing with a voice you can’t help turning your head towards and saying, “Who is that?”.
We’ll tell you who: it is Zoë Modiga. And she’s quietly-not-so-quietly working her way up to becoming a household name in the infinitely diverse world of African Jazz story-telling and songwriting (Modiga’s debut album was casually-not-so-casually nominated for “Best Jazz Album” and “Best African Artist” at the South African Music Awards two years ago).
Modiga released her second album “Inganekwane” this year, meaning “a fairy tale” in isiZulu (one of South Africa’s twelve national languages). This is an album she describes accurately as “evolving the African sound without losing its essence”.
The track “Lengoma” featuring Tubatsi Mpho Moloi is quite simply outstanding. “Lengoma” meaning “this hymn” is a song for healing and dancing, with the repeated lyrics stating “We are here, we are here, we are living for this song/ healing.” The hypnotic rhythms are sustained by a band of exquisite musicians. The circular/ repetitive structure speaks to the song’s meditative quality. It nurtures a trance-like space where the listener can, without understanding the language, feel completely in tune with Modiga’s communal message. To our New Yorkers sick of hearing the random man next to you yell obscenities on the subway while also peeing, put in your earphones and drown out our concrete jungle’s noise pollution with the magic that is Zoë Modiga.
Listen for this moment: 3:05 as the different musical elements weave together to create a delicious stew of musical meditation
Best listened to: While jogging in Central Park just deep enough so that the tops of buildings are no longer visible so you can immerse yourself in the healing power of greens and Modiga’s melodies