Zoë Modiga – Inganekwane

Album Review | Yelloewax | Review by Allan Wilkinson

The last time an album sleeve featured a bovine community with any real artistic merit to speak of, was probably Pink Floyd’s experimental Atom Heart Mother back in 1970, the music inside leaving a lot to be desired.  The music on Zoë Modiga’s new album however, is staggeringly good.  Following three years on from her fine debut album Yellow: The Novel, this second helping features no less than sixteen tracks, delivered almost exclusively in her native isiZulu language, with some fine and assured vocal performances throughout. 

Zoë is a storyteller in the most unambiguous definition of the term, influenced by her grandparents and committed to preserving the stories and traditions of her own South African culture.  The title translates as Zulu Fairytale, which obviously gives the project some context, yet despite this reviewer’s lack of the lingo (my loss), the lack of complete understanding doesn’t in the least prevent me from enjoying the sounds, the rhythms and the compelling emotions explored, together with the clarity in which all these things are conveyed.  The Minnie Ripperton-esque scat vocals of “Uthando” for instance, needs no further explanation and can be enjoyed by all.  The one song delivered in English “Black Butterfly”, is more like the jazz ballads we’re used to, yet it shows where the magic really lies in Zoë’s songs.  For my money, be it in English or isiZulu, Zoë Modiga can sing her heart out until the cows come home.