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YINKOSI YEZIZIBA (article first published : 2004-12-3)

Yinkosi Yeziziba by Durban composers Jürgen Bräuninger and Sazi Dlamini was chosen by the International Society for Contemporary Music as the South African representative at this year’s World New Music Days in Switzerland (www.wnmd2004.ch)

Originally commissioned by German public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk in 2002, the piece was selected by an international jury of distinguished musicians for performance at this prestigious event which took place under the title Trans-it and presented new works by 127 composers from 52 countries between November 3 and 12.

Scored for umrhube and udloko (musical bows), percussion, vocals and electroacoustic sounds (realised at Gerald Lapierre Electronic Music Studio, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban) with the recorded voices of Tandeka Mazibuko and the children Ella, Hannah, Liesbeth, Lilli, Siphindile, Tania, and Zwelisha, Yinkosi Yeziziba was performed three times by Sazi Dlamini on November 10 at the Kunsthaus in the city of Aarau in a concert together with a composition by Iannis Xenakis as well as works from Mexico, the Chech Republic, and Italy.

Yinkosi Yeziziba is loosely based on a Zulu folk tale and musically retold in a fairly abstract way. “In our version of the story,” says Jurgen, “Nkombose, a maiden girl, is beaten to death by her mother for being disobedient and her body is thrown into a pond. While the mamba argues for her to be eaten, the pleading of the python turns Nkombose instead into the king of the deep pond (Yinkosi Yeziziba).

“Nkombose's sister finds out about her sibling's fate when, one day, she comes to the pond to fetch some water and evokes Nkombose to surface to help her lift the heavy water drum onto her head. While Nkombose is singing to her sister "uthi klengu klengu nonyoko ntombi yamatshitshi, awuboni ngabulawa" (you cry with your mother maiden girl, don't you know that I was killed), the parents who were hiding in the reeds grab Nkombose and carry her home. The next day, the serpent Nkanyambe (he who rides the tornado) takes terrible revenge on the homestead.

“The story is recounted primarily by employing three grammatical devices of isiZulu: ideophones (words describing a predicate, qualificative, or adverb in respect to manner, colour, sound, etc.) words derived from ideophones, and onomatopoeia,” continues Jurgen. “The pacing resembles that of praise-singing rather than story-telling.

“The first melody (accompanied by percussion alone) is the original, ancient melody of the tale. The second melody improvises on the text of the former and is rendered in the style of the oldest known Zulu ceremonial song: amahubo. The udloko is not used typically in imitation of the amahubo-derived melody, but is employed as a drone in support of the cyclical structure of the generic scalar melody. The electro-acoustic sounds are mainly composed with and around the overtone structure of the musical bows and the vocal ideophones.

“Throughout the piece vocal sounds are transformed into bow sounds and water sounds into percussion sounds etc. and vice versa. While drawing a great deal from forms such as praise-singing and bow songs and at the same time employing electronic techniques such as granular synthesis and morphing we hope to give all of the above a new perspective.”

Jürgen Bräuninger has been lecturing in composition and music technology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal since 1985. Besides many works for various ensembles/soloists and electronic media, he has also contributed to film scores (e.g. The Lawnmower Man) and a number of Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre productions (e.g. A South African Siddhartha and Ahimsa-Ubuntu). His more recent composition ihlathi is available on Southern Cones: Music out of Africa and South America (Leonardo Music Journal CD Series Volume 10), others can be heard on dUrban Noise and scraps Works (Claremont GSE AM31), both available from www.emf.org . More: http://www.und.ac.za/und/music/adunw.html

Sazi Dlamini grew up on the rural south coast of KwaZulu-Natal where, as a child, he participated in an accapella choir and learned to play (tin) guitar. After matriculation, he studied for a short while engineering, then medicine. Dropping out of both fields he began to study music formally at the age of 27. After a Diploma in Jazz Performance and a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies, he was awarded a Master of Music degree cum laude by the University of Natal in 1999 and since then has been reading towards a PhD on South African jazz in exile. He is the leader of the township jazz band Skokiana and has performed as guitarist with Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, the NU Jazz Connection, Zanusi, and many others. As a composer he has worked on the South African version of Sesame Street and the feature film Sky in Her Eyes, among others.




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