Thank you for standing with us: Black stage set for 40th anniversary

The eight-member cast, performing at the anniversary celebration, will be composed of group leader Sotsha Moyo, Austin Chisare, Luzibo Moyo, Judy Chisare, Witness Dube, Zenzo Hlaseka, Thandeka Moyo and Lulamila Moyo.

BULAWAYO Theatre is the place to be tomorrow as the globallyacclaimed imbube/iscathamiya group Black Umfolosi celebrates its incredible 40-year musical journey.

From an awe-inspiring performance on the Nyanga Arts Festival stage at the opposite end of the country’s Eastern Highlands last weekend, Black Umfolosi is now ready for its big anniversary celebration in the City of Kings.

The eight-member cast, performing at the anniversary celebration, will be composed of group leader Sotsha Moyo, Austin Chisare, Luzibo Moyo, Judy Chisare, Witness Dube, Zenzo Hlaseka, Thandeka Moyo and Lulamila Moyo.

The young members who are still learning and growing under the Black Umfolosi training programme are Bukhosi Mlotshwa, Lumbie Moyo, Lebani Moyo and Spu Chisare.

Over the years, Black Umfolosi has made its name by touring the world.

Its repertoire, which veers from lively leaps and whistles to smooth melodies, has engaged and enthralled audiences around the world. The group’s act has always been tight and seamless, with perfect harmonies and well-synchronised dance steps performed with high energy and pure joy and pride.

Starting in the early days of Zimbabwe’s independence with seven strong male voices, Black Umfolosi has evolved along the way.

The group now has eight members, including youthful and the beautiful voices of young women are now enhancing the imbube music with sweet harmonies in the higher vocal register.

Black Umfolosi has always led the way in revolutionising imbube and taking it to another level and new direction from its early development through warriors, miners and beer-drinkers, to a professionally-staged art.

It has honed and perfected its act to suit both local and international platforms, where it has been well-received since the 80s, and became a proud part of the group’s heritage and legacy for the future.

On the international stage, Black Umfolosi is in such high demand that it now spends more time travelling than performing at home.

The singers have toured all the continents as well as many countries in Africa.

From Europe to the United States, Canada, Malaysia to the Caribbean, the group continues to be invited back again and again.

Moyo said imbube was previously dominated by men because of the environment in which its members grew such as the battleground, the mines and the beerhalls, but it was never strictly confined to men. 

Interestingly, Black Umfolosi members have daughters, and it is only befitting that the young women are now being infused into the group and stepping up to imbube to match the high bar set by their fathers.

Joining the remaining elders of the group, Moyo and Austin Chisare, are their daughters Luzibo and Lulamile Moyo and Judy Chisare.

The daughter of another original member, the late Benia Phuti, Boitumelo takes care of the administrative duties and is being groomed to handle bookings, contracts and travel arrangements.

Luzibo, the eldest, says it is inevitable for the young women to be drawn to imbube, which they have been exposed to all their lives, as well as other diverse genres their parents enjoyed at home such as traditional African music, reggae, R&B and soul.

She values the protective guidance into the music world of their fathers, and especially the support of their mothers who recognised the creative spark in their daughters and encouraged them to sieze the opportunity and reach their full potential.

Luzibo undertook her first Black Umfolosi overseas tour in 2022, a five-month sojourn which included the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

While she had expected a good response knowing the group's history and reputation, she was surprised to realise how their music was able to transcend oceans in its purest form, and how people welcomed and appreciated an authentic African experience.

At home, Black Umfolosi is widely acknowledged by both fans and fellow artistes as cultural ambassadors of Zimbabwe since the 80s, well before many Zimbabwean artistes and groups started exploring the world.

Black Umfolosi has recorded 14 albums since 1990 to date.

The group leader has recorded eight solo offerings, all in his mother tongue Kalanga, in an offshoot project of the company dedicated to preserving and promoting the language.

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