“Umhlaba Womile” is the product of one enthralling collaboration between Odwa Bongo, Carla Scholtz and Michael Sebastian. The Zulu term translates to ‘the ground is dry’, making reference to Cape Town’s recent water crisis, as well as the complex times we’re living in.
Bongo, who made his way from singing in townships to the Drakensberg Boy’s Choir, is now a fully-fledged, independent muso – while Scholtz is a contemporary dancer versed in ballet and hip-hop. Sebastian lead the project at the start of 2020, having spent time busking the streets of London before returning to the Mother City.
Pairing Bongo’s delicate but powerful vocals with Sebastian’s rhythmic talent makes for an irresistibly groovy track – a proper South African vibe if you will. Opening on a loop of mouthed percussion, tongue clicks and all, the track builds along the repeated phrase umhlaba womile and a stingy guitar riff, growing more immense by the second.
While the black and white visuals showcase a beautiful Table Mountain behind Bongo and Sebastian’s live setup, they don’t do much to centre Scholtz’s dance routine. She kind of misses the frame a lot of the time, such that we never really get a chance to see her celebrated skill. Despite this though, the track does evoke a real sense of cultural unity, ultimately seeing three artists mould their craft as one.