5 minutes with Sam Ndlovu

When legendary musician, Ray Chikapa Phiri passed away in 2017, Sam Ndlovu took over as lead vocalist for band, Stimela.

Four years later, he has released his single titled La Bhembe. He shares more about and it and the importance of the usage of indigenous languages in music.

  1. You recently released your single, La Bhembe. Tell us more about what inspired it.


Our languages have been relegated to the bad burner by mainstream media. When you listen to the radio, watch television or read newspaper articles, our languages don’t seem to attract enough attention. As a result you get to a point where anything that has to do with our languages as Africans is looked down upon. It’s as if they are not sophisticated enough to warrant exposure on prime time spots. I’m
of the view that when you take away the people’s language, it’s game over because that is where everything starts. The late Bra Hugh Masekela once mentioned that 20 years or so from now when our children are asked about their culture and heritage, they will say “ They say we used to be Africans.” The foundation or roots of people’s cultures is language which is why I felt the need to be part of those who contribute towards the revolutionising of mind to start looking at our languages on equal par with whether it’s English or French or any other language. With La Bhembe I wanted to showcase that our music can be as beautiful and exotic as any other given the right kind of attention, respect and approach.

2. How has it been received by your fans so far?
Overwhelming and unbelievable. It’s been very well received even by people beyond the borders of our country. Music is a universal language hence anything that has been done with the courtesy that it deserves, will receive the best of attention. What’s tricky is the question on what Siswati speaking people do with those things that seek to uplift us. It is us that need to make noise about our own like people from other places like Maskandi music supporters in KwaZulu-Natal. We need to inculcate to our people that we have ourselves as well as a system that is there but we’re not utilising it to its fullest potential. That is why we are always apologetic who and what we are compared to the other nations. We really need to start supporting our own.

3. How did you discover your passion for music?
I come from a family where my father was a upholsterer and he was a music fanatic. He never sang or played any instrument but every Friday when he got paid, he would by a vinyl. My father noticed my love for music because I would sing along on all the songs he played on the turntable. Although I did not understand some of the songs, I sang anyway. Shortly before he passed on, he bought me a bass guitar and a microphone. So I believe more than anything that he discovered me and I how I wish he was alive to see the seed he planted then. Each and every time I walk on to any stage, I remember my father and for the role he played in unearthing my talent. When he bought those instruments it was a like a vote of confidence in what he saw in me. I’ll always be grateful for the parents I had because they never discouraged me on how I felt about music.

4. What is your take on SA’s music industry and the use of indegenous languages?

When you go to Limpopo you find people like Dr Thomas Chauke who are proud Xitsonga exponents and doing very well together with the support of their local radio stations. You don’t need to wait for their presenters to mention that you’re tuned in to a certain station just like with our own who push artists’ music. There is room for improvement but equally with artists who can still up their game in terms of the quality we feed to radio stations. It will or help for us to cry that our music is not played enough but the quality is not good enough. It is also not done for radio stations to request quality music and not play it because it’s very expensive to get work around music especially when you’re independent yet with a shoestring budget. We need to take such into consideration and encourage one another to produce quality music to also attract promoters as well. There needs to be a joint relationship between musicians, radio stations, the media and all other stakeholders like the relevant government departments. When we are all united we will know where we are headed to.

5. What has Stimela been up to? Can we expect anything new?


The Covid-19 pandemic has made it very difficult for a lot of things to take place normally. Before Stimela goes into studio we meet to discuss concepts, prepare and practice. At the moment we’re working differently now with the other members and I think when the time is right we will bring what we all have been working on separately. Although we are scattered with the others in Gauteng, we constantly communicate. We will announce once we go back to the studio to work on releasing something for our fans.

WATCH: Music video

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