The Portfolio: Sibusile Xaba

A symphony. That’s what people have been calling it. I’m not sure what that says about the songs or their form, but I hear things as messages and I am just a vessel that relays them. It’s tricky to shift from that point of departure into speaking about putting the music into form. And when we speak of form, what is it anyway?

An example of form is life itself, which is multi-layered, encompassing the physical terrain, the spirit world, the universe as a whole. These are the worlds that one is interacting with when one talks of the privilege of receiving codes and translating them into music.

When you speak of Ngiwu Shwabada, it’s more or less the same ideology of The Open Letter — something that someone hears in their dreams. To build my ability to convey, I kept on living this life [of being a vessel] and trying to submit to it so that the messages would become clearer and I could get a deeper understanding of what they were.

I found myself being able to receive things in broad daylight. I’d take what I hear and put it into song. Music is one of the last remaining tangible things that we can use to share the codes and messages of ancient human kind — messages about where we originate from.

We come from where the song wasn’t from the artist. We all sang. The idea that this is my composition, or that it is open in form, or that it is a symphony — those are all things that have to be looked at more intently. The music itself takes its direction. Its purpose is not to bop or be intellectual or to be hitting those triplets. The questions of: Is it African? Is it this or is it that? don’t matter. It’s an aeroplane that takes you to that place where there is healing and peace. And freedom lies within peace.


Music, the purpose of it, the construction process or the form, is open because it comes from infinity. The question is, how do you open yourself up to that? It’s not a big hooo hah ukuthi ukhuluma nezihlahla. You drink a lot of water, you change your diet. You walk barefoot — the children understand that dad is not crazy, he is listening to what is being said and relaying it through his guitar. It’s not mysticism, it is a way to life. It’s how we were and how we are supposed to be. If you want to look at it closer, it’s a way of opening up to life so life opens up for you. That’s what leads to a song.

Ngiwu Shwabada is available on digital music platforms

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