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Queen of AbeNguni takes African culture to the West


Yvonne Ncube, Showbiz Correspondent
Her distinct musical style stems from her grandfather’s work as an inyanga (traditional healer).

She would sing with the entire family when they gathered for ceremonies and celebrations.

Drawing her inspiration from St Johns Apostolic Faith Mission where she led the choir at a very young age, Busi Mhlanga is today one of the most celebrated traditional singers who have put significant effort into preserving African culture even in Western countries where the Western culture reigns supreme .

The United Kingdom-based singer’s dressing tells her story before she opens her mouth, earning her the title Queen of AbeNguni.

Her passion for dancing and music has captivated many and she is regularly booked for events such as wedding ceremonies in the UK.

Perfect moves, flawless expressions and an angelic voice are what she presents to her audience.

Speaking to Saturday Leisure from her UK base, Busi said her exceptional energy is evoked by her love for music.

“I sing, I dance, I clap, I drum my heart out. Music brings joy to my heart and I love sharing that joy.

My inspiration came from St Johns Apostolic Faith Mission where I led the choir at a very young age,” she said.

The multi-talented artist said she is guided by the adage “I am because of my circle,” which she argues is the best way to succeed in life.

“I always say ‘I am because of my circles’ so my music, dressing and dance are inspired by all the circles I belong to.

The first circle is the Mhlanga and Takobana family I was born into, then the other circles are the community at large, the church, the schools I attended, my friends, the country, the African continent I come from and the world at large as I travel along.

“Some of the songs come to me in a dream, some are songs that I grew up singing in church and some are traditional songs that we sang in the family during gatherings and celebrations. Some from the schools I attended.

“My grandfather was a traditional healer so he would hold spiritual gatherings, though I was young those songs, the drumming, clapping and dancing never fades from my memory and soul.

It’s part of me and I carry that with me,” Busi said.

The Queen of AbeNguni said her songs are inspired by things that are happening in communities and those that affect people.

“The songs at the weddings we attended in the family and the community still ring in my heart and I sing and perform them. I also sing about things happening around me. During the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2015 I composed a song about that.

I sing about my motherland Africa,” she said.
Busi once took to Facebook to respond to allegations that she was overdoing her traditional dressing.

“I have had some people saying that I over-dress but I have told them that’s how I feel like dressing, it’s in me, I love it and no one can change that.

Idlozi lami ngelokugqiza ngakho ngigqiza ngingagqize qhakala.

Funny enough some have started following suit and it’s good. For me, it’s something I feel comfortable with, especially when performing. It brings out something I really can’t explain.

“My mother has tried to talk to me into not wearing my traditional outfits and beads but has never succeeded in that.

She has now learned to accept me a little or rather she has just chosen to let me be what I am.

My late father was my number one supporter though it was after he realized he could not fight what he eventually called, ‘the gift of the spirit’ in me.

I have a video of him saying that,” Busi said as she laughed.

She said her music has received great appreciation even though she is in a foreign land.

“I perform my African traditional music, my African contemporary music and deliver the way the spirit leads. I work hard and try to be consistent.

The uniqueness of our African music attracts people from other cultures. People become interested in the way we sing, dance and dress.

Our music is different, powerful, influential and melodic.

“My professional career as a performing artist started in 1992 as a lead vocalist for Bulawayo’s first Female Troop, Umhlathuzi, which was under the mentorship of Black Umfolosi.

Before then, I had always been singing in school choirs, church choirs and community gatherings. My elders told me that I started talking and singing at six months.

I wish there were mobile phones at that time to capture that so I would believe it,” said Busi.

She said in 1995 she was the lead vocalist for Albert Nyathi and Imbongi Arts Productions where she learned a lot.

In 1996, Busi said, she was chosen to travel to Denmark to represent young Southern African female artists where she met other female artists from different countries.

“In 1998, I was also chosen to be the lead character in a documentary that was produced and directed by a Danish and Zim company,” Busi narrated.

“In the year 2000, I left Imbongi to pursue a solo career in Denmark then eventually settled in the UK where I continued with music and performing arts career.

Over the years I have performed at various festivals in Europe and Africa,” said Busi.

“I have shared the stage with various well-known artistes including the late Hugh Masekela and Oliver Mtukudzi in London’s Wembley Arena.

I also shared a stage with Zahara, Nomcebo Zikode, Femi Kuti, Twoface Idibia and Winky D.

The others I shared a stage with are Mahotela Queens, Freshly Ground, Busi Ncube, Rebeca Malope, Tom Jones, London African Gospel Choir, South African Cultural Talents and many others.”

Busi said she has also appeared on UK television channels such as BBC ONE Show, BBC 3’s Don’t Tell The Bride and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

“I also sang in the House of Commons in the UK during Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2015.

I have featured in one of UK’s big artiste STORMZY’s music video titled Blinded by Your Grace,” Busi said.

She said she has won over 15 awards both locally and internationally.

Her latest single Gqi Gqi Gqi’ swept the streets of Bulawayo last year.

Busi has continued to inspire many with her great devotion to culture and her energy while on stage.

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