Melodia Women’s Choir’s Women Behind the Notes series shines a light on women in music, with a focus on choral music. This is the first post in the series.
The music of Nobuntu – one of very few all-female acappella groups from Zimbabwe – blends traditional Zimbabwe song, gospel and jazz. The five singers of Nobuntu, who grew up in the townships of Bulawayo, formed the group in 2011 and describe the meaning of Nobuntu as “life, diversity, love, and ‘Ubunto’” (compassion and humanity).
Nobuntu represents a new generation of young African women singers who celebrate and preserve their culture and heritage through art and music. The ensemble’s mission lies in the belief that music can be an important vehicle for change, one that transcends racial, tribal, religious, gender and economic boundaries.
In a video created in 2013, near the beginning of their journey, the singers are hopeful that their ensemble will “go far.” Seven years later, the ensemble has won numerous accolades and toured widely. In recent seasons, the quintet has performed in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and throughout the African continent. A planned tour of the U.S. in 2020 has been rescheduled for 2022 due to COVID-19.
Nobuntu released their third album Obabes beMbube in 2018, building on the success of Thina and Ekhaya which were released in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Obabes beMbube features a selection of Mbube songs, a genre usually performed by male ensembles. Nobuntu vocalist and percussionist Heather Dube says of the album, “It pays homage to the Imbube tradition. That’s why it’s special to me… we are love, we are peace, we are strength, we are children of the motherland…. and yes, we are one.”