17 May 2024 ///

Thandiswa Mazwai releases her fourth album ‘Sankofa’

Since the beginning of her career in 1996, the legendary artist Thandiswa Mazwai has been one of the most influential singers in post-apartheid South Africa. Known for her electrifying performances, she has toured the world and will celebrate her new offering with shows in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Now, she’s released her fourth album, “Sankofa”.

Sankofa is a Ghanaian Twi word that means ‘to go back and fetch what has been left behind’. The making of this work, her first album of original songs since 2009’s Ibokwe, has embodied this idea. Recorded in Johannesburg, Dakar, and New York, the album combines archival Xhosa samples, jazz and west African music. It includes songs produced by Meshell Ndegeocello, Chris Bruce, Nduduzo Makhathini, Tendai Shoko and Thandiswa. It features collaborations with Thandi Ntuli and Nduduzo Makhathini.

Thandiswa says, “The making of Sankofa was a sonic odyssey that took me from the ancient villages of the Eastern Cape to Dakar and New York, weaving a thread that culminated in something truly special. Within those ancient rhythms and polyrhythms, a common lexicon revealed itself to me and I am excited to share this music with those who have been growing and evolving with me. Listen out for uhadi, umrhubhe, ngoni, kora and drums in the music. It is about a celebration of the pan-African spirit, healing old wounds, and returning to what honours us.”

About the recording of Sankofa, her fourth release since 2016’s Belede, 2009’s Ibokwe and her solo debut 20 years ago Zabalaza, Thandiswa says “In 2010, I went to visit the International Library of African Music at Rhodes University where I got access to an archive of field and research of Xhosa music; I had these recordings for a very long time. During the COVID lockdown, I went back to these recordings and realised I could use them as a bedrock for creating new songs, and these field recordings became the building blocks of the album. After I did all the pre-production on songs with my friend Tendai Shoko, we would put down to bass, notes, and guitar chords to create demos, which we then took to my producers Nduduzo Makhathini and Meshell Ndegeocello.”

Mazwai continues, “What I noticed was they were really responding to the archives, and this became the looming spirit that carried us through the album: all of us experimenting, discovering, investigating, questioning, collecting our lineages, rooting ourselves and responding to the archival experience and infusing it with something from the now. In West Africa, they responded to the archive by marrying expressions from umrhubhe with the kora; bringing their colour into it, making this an album that speaks not only to the pan-African spirit but also to the diaspora.”

The themes in the album are: “Healing, reclamation and political dissatisfaction. It is also an album that re-enforces my pan-African identity.”

Listen to “Sankofa” here

Thandiswa will also bring Sankofa to the Durban Playhouse on May 31. Purchase your ticket here.

Thandiswa will perform at Artscape in Cape Town on July 20. Purchase your ticket here.



Thandiswa has been one of the most influential post-partheid singers in South Africa. She began her career in 1996 with music groups Jack Knife and Bongo Maffin, one of the pioneering bands of the dance music genre Kwaito. After 6 award-winning albums with Bongo Maffin, she ventured on to a solo career. Her first solo project Zabalaza (2004), reached double platinum status and won numerous awards, including a Kora award for Best African Female and four South African Music Awards. Her critically acclaimed sophomoric release Ibokwe (2009) and third album, a jazz reinterpretation of South African classics, Belede (2016) reached gold status within a few weeks of release. Her compositions include traditional Xhosa music, mbaqanga, funk, jazz, and reggae.

Known for her electrifying performances, Thandiswa has performed all over the world at venues including the NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Apollo Theatre, The Lincoln Centre, The Cannes Film Festival, Africa Express, BBC World Music Awards, TED, Afropunk, Carnegie Hall Citywide Festival, among others. She has collaborated with artists such as Hugh Masekela, Meshell Ndegeocello (including on her 2024 Grammy Winning album), Fatoumata Diawara, Somi, and DJ Black Coffee.

You May Also Like