Wayfarers' Hymns

Author:

Zakes Mda

Title:

Wayfarers' Hymns

Publisher:

Umuzi Penguin

Nataka Books Reviews: 

Wayfarers' Hymns

We have always enjoyed reading Zakes Mda's books. Mda is prolific writer who infuses history into his fiction writing, capturing the sounds, sights and scenery of the communities he writes about.


We follow the khelekhe, a praise singer and giften musician as he travels through the country of Lesotho, taking in local histories, meeting new people, observing customs and ignoring others, all while perfecting his music which ebbs and flows.  The khelekhe is "A man of music. A singer of hymns. A wandered, and yes, sometimes a vagabond. A creator of hapiness."



Nataka Books Full Review: 

Wayfarers' Hymns

We have always enjoyed reading Zakes Mda's books. Mda is prolific writer who infuses history into his fiction writing, capturing the sounds, sights and scenery of the communities he writes about. In the 'Sculptors of Mapungubwe' it was the gold miners and traders from the ancient kingdom at Great Zimbabwe that got Mda's attention. 


This time it is the famo musicians of Lesotho we learn about and travel on the music and life journey. From the district of Mafeteng come three classics hymns that are well-known: Lekase, Mahlanya and Lisuoa. There are many more that capture the rhythms of Lesotho as we 'traverse the valleys' with new ones being composed.


We follow the khelekhe, a praise singer and giften musician as he travels through the country of Lesotho, taking in local histories, meeting new people, observing customs and ignoring others, all while perfecting his music which ebbs and flows.  The khelekhe is "A man of music. A singer of hymns. A wandered, and yes, sometimes a vagabond. A creator of hapiness."


A best-selling hit eventually comes off called 'U Ka Se Nqete' but the famo musician tires of playing the same tune being requested by their people. Matters which had been previously ignored, come to require full attention, and it is in the exploration of local customs, the clash with some beliefs that we learn about the Bataung, Barwa and other clans. 


The death of Famole, a leading hymn singer leads the protagonist to improve his craft. We learn of what moves the Basotho society, their conflicts and what brings and binds them together. Music is part of this glue which Zakes Mda captures poetically.


This is a book full of idioms, proverbs, philosophy and is packed with humour - the variety told through generations. 


"Basotho are a speaking people; the value the music that words strung together with care and love can produce..."


"A man is not told twice. A man is not asked twice either."


"The true Famole walks amongst us, lives among us."


"They say the best defence is attack."


"He who will be devoured by vultures, ...no one can tell him not to sing beautiful things."


"Our elders say you build a corral around the word of the dead."


The rich history of the famo singers is brought to life in this wonderful, colourful and mucical journey where "the end is always a journey."


-- Nataka Books