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South Africa
Choral Traditions

Isicathamiya is a singing style that originated from the South African Zulus. In European understanding, a cappella is also used to describe this form of singing. The word itself does not have a literal translation; it is derived from the Zulu verb -cathama, which means walking softly, or tread carefully. Isicathamiya contrasts with an earlier name for Zulu a cappella singing, mbube, meaning "lion". The change in name marks a transition in the style of the music: traditionally, music described as mbube is sung loudly and powerfully, while isicathamiya focuses more on achieving a harmonious blend between the voices. The name also refers to the style's tightly choreographed dance moves that keep the singers on their toes. Culturally and traditionally, isicathamiya is influenced by Zulu indigenous beliefs such as: belief in communalism which is expressed in the Zulu dictum, "umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu" , competition, strength and power associated with animals, reverence of the fireplace as a resource for food and warmth and, dreams for communicating with ancestors. 

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Naledi Masilo


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