Isicathamiya, the Zulu Blues

The Jeppe Hostel in Johannesburg houses migrant workers coming from all parts of the country. Most saturday nights, it hosts Isicathamiya (literally “to softly stamp”) competitions, a traditional Zulu musical genre danced and sung by choirs of men.
Most of the singers hope that one day, they can make a living with Isicathamiya, and one of them confides: “A lot of people commit crimes here, I sing to avoid going to prison or becoming an alcoholic.”

[Published in World Sound, may-june 2009]

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