Stanley Sibande’s new single “Mucalo Cesu” pursues the divine

“Music, like art or sport, is a human pursuit of the divine.” I’d love to tell you I came up with this phrase, but instead I’ll tell you why I love it.

Its author, David Foster Wallace, takes a lot of care in explaining that this isn’t a religious pursuit, nor a spiritual one, but rather a pursuit of harmony with the world around us. Taking everything that happens to us, reconciling the good and the bad, to arrive at a moment of peace.

Stanley Sibande’s moment of peace is called “Mucalo Cesu”.

Articulated by a delicate acoustic guitar that grows with the song, his newest single is the end of one chapter, leading to the beginning of the next like a deep and fresh new breath.

“I started writing this song two years ago when I didn’t have much of a relationship with my family,” explains Stanley. “I couldn’t reconcile that they didn’t understand my choice to leave a safe career and go into music. A choice to feed my soul.”

You feel this as soon as the song sets in. A very simple but beautiful melody, you’re invited to experience just a little bit of solitude. The kind of solitude that only those who choose to forge their own path know all too well.

This feeling perseveres throughout the song, but as Stanley’s vocals set in, the solitude is slowly replaced by a confident sense of identity.

This is Stanley’s second single of the year and like the first, it’s written in his native Bemba language. “The space to explore my lyrics in Bemba is bigger for the moment,” he explains. “I haven’t explored it enough and these last two singles were a great opportunity to do so.”

It’s a tough exercise in most cases to marry western Anglo-centric styles of music with traditional melodies, let alone lyrics. Yet, Stanley picks his cadences and spacing well enough to allow the words all they need, without over-indulging in the easy tropes of either style.

It isn’t a linear narrative either. It isn’t weighed down by the structure of verse, bridge and chorus. Instead, it builds musically and thematically on the sentiment of unity. A unity that through dedicated craft and perseverance, despite adversity, brings something beautiful into the world.

In his own life, Stanley is just some weeks away from becoming a father. Beaming with excitement and filled with anticipation, he explains how this has affected his writing, and the song in particular.

“When my partner told me she was pregnant, I realised I needed to look past my division with my family and look toward patching things up,” he explains. “I began to think of everything I’d want my child to have, I would have to offer it by example first.”

It’s a parallel that’s too pure to overlook, and the song does a wonderful part in getting the message across as it builds into a hopeful repetition of its first verses, musically expanding with drums and piano joining the fray.

Finishing off the interview, we chat about Stanley’s upcoming UK tour of nine dates across three weeks. He’ll be travelling quite a bit but looks forward to coming home quickly.

Before we sign-off I ask him why the title “Mucalo Cesu” and he explains that the phrase translates to “In our world”. In Bemba, it earmarks a lot of the parables that people use to impart lessons based on their human experience. A way to learn and to teach, and to make sense of the world around them. And all of a sudden, I start to hear a lullaby hidden in the song.