Welcome to the journey of many miles, across many a blizzard, rubbing shoulders with countless sunshines and resting with sunsets. This is the best synopsis for what you're about to encounter with Mnqobi Yazo's new EP titled Iscephu. The new artist is part of Aewon Wolf's recently introduced act called Future Africa, and although we've encountered his music briefly in the past through single features like Aewon's Bambelela, we get to connect deeper with him on this magnificent EP.
From the Intro, you immediately feel pulled into a secret, sacred world of the most superior beings by the voices on the track which sound like chants of a welcoming ceremony in the backdrop. The thumb piano and Mnqobi's praises let you know that you are now in somewhat a holy place, at least musically so. Shortly after that welcoming, you experience some rainy weather as the title track comes to life with Mnqobi singing like a praise poet. If you've seen the Future Africa act live on stage, you will immediately identify with this track since it is their opening song as they enter the stage. Mnqobi's voice bares resemblance to a strong forecaster who speaks wisdom to his village, especially with the suspenseful music in the background created by the drums and the thunder effects. The weather then clears for a sunny sounding Inqanawe which finds Mnqobi crooning with a deep sense of nostalgia in his voice as he sings about having come a long way from where he comes from. Inqanawe fittingly sounds like the reflections after a heavy storm has come to quite.
In comes Konakele which will tug at your heart with the layered vocals (harmonies) he sports on the track as he cautions against easily falling in love with a woman who is almost certain to have your heart broken. Shu! This song easily proves that when a man loves, he loves with all that he has and the reason why we often think men are heartless is 'cause of their love having been wasted on someone who trampled their heart once before. A powerful track of experience, young wisdom, and a level of vulnerability. Coming from that, you find yourself in the middle of a heartfelt chant in the Skit which will remind you of the piercing atmosphere that struggle songs have, or that of songs sang by prisoners back in the day. The question is, which place is he singing about? Could it be South Africa, Durban, or just this world in general - it's all left to your imagination. Finally, an almost cheerful song comes on in the form of 247 as Mnqobi leaves a message for his love about going out with the boys just to catch a break. The song has a cross-over grip to it, you can hear the song being celebrated by old people as much as young people would dance to it. It has an inherent "kofifi" feel in its underbelly. Am I the only who hears that vibe?
The musical theme in 247 spills into Emakudeni, only a bit slower, with the heavily present guitar on it. The song sounds out of this world as he was just singing about not coming back home to his love on the previous song, but now he's being advised to, "go back home," to be with his family. You hear a level of remorse and longing on this song that will remind you of many men who leave their homes to go far and wide to pursue jobs, and any other form of a hustle away from their families. The EP is certainly packed with many a story of the normal South African, particularly in traditional settings - perhaps in the rural areas before one hits the city lights. An important song in Usesemncane comes on addressing marriage to minors, which happens in some cultures and rural areas where you find men insisting on taking teenage girls as their wives. Mnqobi speaks on the married girl's behalf by questioning this husband on his judgement with the decision to marry someone who is clearly not in the right position for this level of commitment. The brilliance in this song, for me, is how catchy it is. It is certainly bound to have people singing along, exclaiming against this practice either consciously or subconsciously. That's dope artistry.
As the EP closes off, Mnqobi tones it down with his first feature on the project for Sweet Melodies alongside King J.O.E who will have you looking up to check, "Who's this?" His voice is also commanding matched up to the one you've been listening to for the past 25 minutes or so. He seals the EP with Ama-Come & Go which reiterates the stories on Konakele, a tale of caution when coming to girls. It's either Mnqobi's been heartbroken or he's been living in fear of getting caught up in the wrong girl's web. Ave kunzima emhlabeni phela! Mnqobi Yazo is an excellent story teller of our time, packaging the authentic stories of our people into catchy tunes, and unforgettable melodies that are addictive. He nourishes your soul with the ethnic elements in his music, pulling you away from the heavy bass kicks we consume ever so often. His use of drums and maskandi-like guitars is what will transport you to a flat land somewhere, complete with mud huts, back-of-house fires, and free flowing cloths wrapped around your body as you sip tea on the stoep. Even with having written this much, I still fail to find words that encompass how splendid, and utterly necessary, such a project is for the South African masses. WOW!