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Simphiwe Dana Kulture Noir

Kulture Noir

by Dave Durbach / 25.08.2010

If ever there was a woman who marched to her own beat, it’s this one. With her regal sense of style, genre-defying music and steady refusal to bow to trends, Simphiwe Dana has balanced sales, SAMAs and street cred to rise above her many contemporaries in a relatively short space of time.

Her long-awaited third album has just hit the shelves. While most singers would be content to resort to drum machines and studio gimmicks, Dana’s talent as a songwriter, producer and designer have seen her maintain tight control over her work. On Kulture Noir she makes use of an array of top session musos, drawing on the expertise of three different producers: her usual right hand man Thapelo Khomo (from Stimela), as well as Mozambiquan Moreira Chonguica and Nigerian “Afro-Juju” guitarist Kunle Ayo. Grammy-winning American producer Gordon “Commissioner” Williams and DJ Awadi from Senegalese hip hop outfit Positive Black Soul were also roped in. Despite this variety of influences, the album retains a sense of cohesion, albeit one that bares little semblance to anything else you might have heard before.

The album title is apparently a reference to the two most widely spoken languages in Africa, English and French, the combination of two colonialisms, so to speak, into something new: Kulture Noir (Black Culture).

Simphiwe Dana

The album is a 12-track journey that blends the raw traditional sounds of her childhood in rural Eastern Cape with more international neo-soul and jazz sounds. Dana’s versatile voice recalls not only that to which she is most often compared, Miriam Makeba, but also a host of others – Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu (“Mayine”), Bjork (“Ingoma ka Maiane”), Cat Power, even Inge Beckmann. Comparisons in this case are largely futile, however. Simphiwe Dana is no one but herself.

The highlight of the album is “Fela’s Azania”. Few local musicians, with the exception of 70s era Hugh Masekela, have had the balls to explore the complex grooves of Afrobeat. Dana pays tribute to one of her heroes, and arguably Africa’s greatest musical force, Fela Anikulapo Kuti – but instead of being content to merely imitate, she manages to mould the sound to suit her own ends.

The two-part “Ndim Iqhawe” (I’m a hero), the album’s first single “Ndimi nawe” (You and I) and the acoustic guitar and flute-driven “Mayine” (Let it Rain) are other tracks showcasing Dana at her best.

Despite the number of musicians brought on board, the sound is never cluttered, and Dana’s vocals always take centre stage. Liberal use of acoustic string and wind instruments, backing vocals, and minimal emphasis on drums or programmed beats, give the entire album a carefree, meandering quality, rare in these days of ubiquitous programmed beats.

With 6 SAMAs already under her belt for her first two albums, expect Kulture Noir to add to Ms Dana’s collection, and cement her reputation as Msanzi’s foremost lady of song.

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RESPONSES (65)
  1. Noban2 says:

    She really is a gem of real music in South Africa, I watched her perform last night and it was really good

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  2. Pearl says:

    Shes definately in a league of her own. Well done miss Dana, we appreciate the hardwork and passion that went into creating this album.

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  3. hide the salami says:

    Durbach, your ‘review’ reads just like a label-sponsored promotional write-up. Don’t forget to mention those SAMAs as often as possible.

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  4. Sinethemba Dywili says:

    I bought the album on Sunday and have been waking up to her enchanting voice. From Zandisile, The One Love Movement On Bantu Biko to this, she does not back away from herself like her peers but retains a fresh unique eclecticity of sound. I love Kulture Noir. If it were up to me, I’d give it 10 Grammys add to that a Lifetime Achievement Award

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  5. Anonymous says:

    this album is boring.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    she is boring…

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  7. Ntokozo jiyane says:

    She’s my drug & im not kidding. Like really.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Terrible make-up job on the cover and in-sleeve! She looks sallow and HIV+. Her skin has an unmoisturised, grey and bleak tone to it. And her lips! Oh, lord – colourless and pale, but without artistry. Like, those lips don’t look nice – they look dry and bleak and diseased.

    But she was great in Themba, though. Pretty and miserable. Easy to sympathise with.

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  9. Thembi Ntombela says:

    Great job gal,i lyk the unique in ur voice,u r nt imitating any voice,keep it up,n to hell with people sending stupid comment,maybe they even mime

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  10. boobypryz says:

    Hello, who wrote this thing – are you cooked? /// Zandisile is Simphiwe’s best album (not this same old same old afro jazz, let’s not get our heads stuck too far up our own asses to see the truth about who we are, where we are and our purpose) – if she wants to grow and free her people she must first get free herself, from herself – SAMA’s mean nothing.

    I have faith in Simphiwe, hopefully she’ll come around.

    Boobypryz

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  11. Bathabile Mnyaka says:

    U are my inspiration ur voice on its own dnt wanna talk about ur the style goddess, keep up the good work which is very original.

    I fully agree with u Sinethemba 10 Grammys for Kulture Noir

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  12. Bathabile Mnyaka says:

    U are my inspiration ur voice on its own dnt wanna talk about ur style goddess, keep up the good work which is very original.

    I fully agree with u Sinethemba 10 Grammys for Kulture Noir

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  13. Ndoni says:

    Just learned of the new album and I am so, so excited. It’s not possible for someone so blessed, gifted, creative, beautiful and black to produce anything but genus. Even without hearing a note I know I love it. Can’t wait to listen. Come to London. Come to Jamaica!

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  14. Tim says:

    can anyone say Erikah Badu? Serious Joe she dresses like her and if she truly is on a conscious tip then we might as well call her Erikah…Except without talent. she gets two middle fingers from me. Oh and that queer who talks about her make-up on the cover is right – her lips look fuckin crack head!

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  15. Busi Mtabane says:

    Thi album is a must have…track 4 & 5 r taking me 2 another level!!!

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful album. Inkwenkwezi takes me to eternity… if it exists.

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  17. Theron Rapoo says:

    I have been waiting patiently for Simphiwe’s album and though I knew it was going to be an electrifying project, I never expected it to be such an amazing one. I have always loved Simphiwe and On Bantu Biko Street still makes my days. Inkwenkwezi makes me cry. She is forever different and it is her inncoent and motivating voice that drives my blood pressure high. I really wanted to wait until December but when I listened to Kulture Noir in the store I saw myself paying for it. Well Done Simphiwe on an Album that is really worth waiting for. In 2011 I see you going home with 5 SAMA’s like you did in 2007. I can’t stop listening to the Album and the sound and the beat just takes me far… Ke a leboga!!!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    I think Simphiwe Dana has an interesting voice and i applaud her for the themes she tends to tackle in her music but to be honest the vocal arrangements in this album are boring and similar to the first two albums and a lot of the music is reminiscent of her second album, i feel like there is no progression shes not trying anything new, but anyway it is the SA music industry, once you have a gimmick you gonna push it till you have fully exploited it….

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  19. Anonymous says:

    i have never in my life come across such a distinguished soul. i am pleasantly surprised everytime tis gal drops something. the meaning behind the melody let alone the lyrics is something i sure will brag about to even my grandsons who will think any other contemporary music rules.

    you are just a legend in the making… go on girl… do Africa proud!!!

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  20. dikela ka noni says:

    Reassuring and evocative sounds, could be a mother’s lullaby or a lover’s lament; inspirational but also full of pain and yet comforting; probing and steadfast. Mayine… the lyricism of it all !

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  21. DeReal says:

    I saw her avo-session on mzansi magic nd it was amazing. Bettr tha erykah badu.

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  22. Anon says:

    Not all can appreciate art in its truest form. It is those who fail to stretch and exercise their left brain who fail, not only themselves but their people. Simphiwe’s work is ahead of its time, it is art and will never go out of time. To Erykahs’ fans stop hating blame the writer of this article. Like the album sleeve it really shows your graphic design influence.

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  23. Momelezi says:

    Yoh… I think she had me in mind when she wrote Mayine… the whole album has some depth to it that is just rare… Simpra, you’re on your own league girl… keep on like that…! the poet in you lives…

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  24. fortune says:

    neva seen such talent,different yet very nice..simphiwe mtana asekhaya uya rocker…

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  25. Babes says:

    I got an autographed CD as a gift on Friday. A pleasant suprise it was…
    I can’t stop listening to it, it is beautiful! The thought adds extra beauty to the sound.

    Thanks Simphiwe and thanks to you babes: Love

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  26. Pheli says:

    Sweet Sound

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  27. Khanyi says:

    This album is on its own..I’m with you through this journey and forever will u do me proud I know you will Simp…love u sisi wam …..I hve all your albms u are just getting better n better u ourr on ur own…what a poetic soul you are. ur music heals sisi wam…Momelezi ndiyakubona ahahahahaahha Simphw u deserve a GRAMMY SISI

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  28. Lucky mfeka says:

    I am so proud of you, Miss Dana. Your voice is outstanding and what i love most about your music is that it brings hope to the hopeless. My dream is to be your back up vocalist one day and i hope that my dream comes true. My favourite musicians are, Brian Mcnight, Stevey Wonder, Oleta Adams and Aniter Baker. My adres:lucky mfeka,3147 clermont road, clernaville 3602,durban 4000.

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  29. bongi says:

    u just made me to be proud of who i am,thank u….

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  30. Thabiso Zikalala says:

    mayine and undishiyile blew and still blow me away. Her voice captures and conveys emotions that are heartfelt. Im loving this album its a great inspiration peace… I have a lot to learn thats for sure…..Mayine

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  31. Thabiso Zikalala says:

    mayine and undishiyile blew and still blow me away. Her voice captures and conveys emotions that are heartfelt. Im loving this album its a great inspiration peace… I have a lot to learn thats for sure…..Mayine….”hamba naye, hamba naye hamba naye moya wami” Ingikhumbuza esebangishiyile bangilinde ekhaya.

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  32. Rithuli says:

    last 30sec of Simpiwe Dana’s 3:53 min track, Inkwenkwezi- Kalturenoir, is not from this world. Its transcendency reduced me to tears…Mayine ( another song from the same album) a song I thot was my favorite actualized in isichotho seenyembezi. Simpiwe has this to say:”.. let the rain fall, first from your eyes..dignify your pain & you might find your power..”

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  33. Bathabile Mnyaka says:

    she made my night on the 01.12.2010 when she was shooting her live dvd in Gold reef when she perfomed Nkwenkwezi i saw my eyes filled with glasses i just couldnt hold the tears, Simphiwe u are one in a million u have it sisi. Mayine

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  34. Anonymous says:

    Halalalala Sis Simphiwe,

    “The One Love Movement On Bantu Biko” was killed by stupid jorno for one of the news papers – cause he didn’t understand the message you where sending out. Still playing the album and it does it for me and we did scoop awards for it, Now that we Kulture Noir we killing it nobody compares to you my dear sista!

    I’m just sad that i missed you live DVD show at gold Reef City, i hear it was a blast can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

    “Maiane” wow what a song it has all the elements in it, Inkwenkwezi ayoba!

    Love you!
    Tk

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  35. Anonymous says:

    Wow Sis Simphiwe they can say whatever they want but you still the best! My first time seeing you perform it was in Lesotho while you where preggy and was sharved by the performance and never looked back. (“Zandisile”) Then came “The One Love Movement On Bantu Biko” and some stupid reviews started doing rounds and they where actually building you my sis cause the album did good and we got an awards to show off.

    Then we killed the critics with Kulture Noir and DVD which i can wait to buy as i missed out on the show, already scoop Metro’s awards with the album. eNkosi for Maiane, Inkwekwezi actually the album has all the elements in it ayoba legendary Simphiwe- Simply the best!

    Umama Busi Mhlongo is smiling down at you….

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  36. Tk says:

    Wow Sis Simphiwe they can say whatever they want but you still the best! My first time seeing you perform it was in Lesotho while you where preggy and was sharved by the performance and never looked back. (“Zandisile”) Then came “The One Love Movement On Bantu Biko” and some stupid reviews started doing rounds and they where actually building you my sis cause the album did good and we got an awards to show off.

    Then we killed the critics with Kulture Noir and DVD which i can wait to buy as i missed out on the show, already scoop Metro’s awards with the album. eNkosi for Maiane, Inkwekwezi actually the album has all the elements in it ayoba legendary Simphiwe- Simply the best!

    Umama Busi Mhlongo is smiling down at you….

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  37. Rithuli says:

    If you look at the song- track5, Ilolo, through the lens of Fanon, yes it ( Kulture Nior) is political. Fanon describes that the colonial occupation entails a process of dehumanization which causes a crises of identity in the colonized…” it is the systematic negation of the [native] and a furious determination, to deny the native all attributes of humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates to ask themselves the question constantly: ” in reality, who am I”…

    This is where Fanon finds a political interface between what could have been an otherwise apolitical phenomenon of individual’s alienation with their surrounding, or as the person relates to his surrounding-

    He beds this [alienation phenomenon] on social, cultural and political conditions. Ilolo, track 5, reminds me of what Fanon calls reactionary psychoses caused by colonial conflict…Ilolo ( from Kulture Noir) takes both the possible “reactionary psychoses” cause of dementia in the disturbed individual, puts it together with the conditions that alienate the individual, and epitomizes it in the individual who is mentally disturbed- the “Ilolo” character in the track.

    The lyrics give us an indication that this individual though seen to be mentally disturbed is in actual fact searching for her name,his name, her dignity, his dignity in the streets of our townships…

    Mayine rallies us to cry for our nation’s political trajectory, and she says in the lyrics,”let the rain fall, first from your eyes..dignify your pain & you might find your power”

    I concede to perhaps sub-texting her, because I have had the privilege of listening first-hand to her political ideology- black-consciousness, and other pronouncements that she politically feels strongly about… i hope i am not getting her into even more trouble than she already is with some people who do not approve of her championing the black coz through her music and public persona.

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  38. Thando says:

    Im currently listening 2 Kulture Noir as im writin ths comment, Ms Dana is the best in SA music, 2all the drug addicts who happen 2b Erykahs fans here, u cn take ur comment n shove up em wher the sun dnt shine, Simphiwe Dana is ur God!

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  39. Thando says:

    Im currently listening 2 Kulture Noir as im writin ths comment, Ms Dana is the best in SA music, 2all the drug addicts who happen 2b Erykahs fans here, u cn take ur comment n shove up em wher the sun dnt shine, Simphiwe Dana is ur God!…

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  40. Zan.B says:

    I just love her voice, it makes one to stop whatever she was doing and listen to this talented young lady. Well Done Sim, you’ve outdone urself my darling, this is a must have CD,infact one must have ur collection.

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  41. D Bongz says:

    i recently bough her album , oh ma word this woman voice is so pure an capturing ,well done gal your hard work will pay off i jst cant sop listing to it i love ILOLO,INKWEKWEZI , NDIMI NAWE ok all the songs thank you for allowing us to have a piece of your soul

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  42. Nkazimulo Kunene says:

    I have ALWAYS BEEN a fan of Simphiwe Dana…i first saw her perfom Zandile in the last episode of Yizo Yizo in some poetic scene. I wanted more or her so I went and bought the Yizo Yizo 3 soundtrack JUST to hear her track, little did i know that she was gonna release Zandisile….When Zandisile hit the shelves I went and test drove it in Musica ..I had goose bumps listening to “Ndize Mama Tata” I bought the cd instantly ….. and have always been in love with it. I remember going to her show in durban batcentre …and she performed for ONLY R50 i was shaking …..I screamed at the top of my voice singing along with her. She has doen the same thing with Kulture Knoir …I first heard the song “ILOLO” when watching the awards and she was going to the stage to fetch her award that beat caught me and i decided to buy the cd…. im glued!addicted is just the right word…im a staunch house fan but i cant remember the last time i played those fast beats thats how bad shes got me in the office the cd is on repeat when i get home i play it ….got it in my phone the whole album in my sleep it is just the soundtrack of my dream ..my facebook statuses are always about Kulture Knoir ..I dont know how to describe it it hits me right to the core of me.she is deep!!! I love Ndim Nawe, Ndim Iqhawe , *ILOLO* – [KILLER] and Mayine …but the rest of the cd is pure professionalism.the instrments the voice. THANK U SIMPHIWE DANA!!!!!!!!! I LOVE U! LOADS!!!!! u sing my type of music! Nkaz

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  43. ASA says:

    wow Miss Dana i don’t have much to say to you but I LOVE U N UR MUSIC SO MUCH.
    What i wud like to knw how did u start singing this kind of music at this age coz we all know that many people has a belief that Jazz music is for old people. I REALLY LOVE YOU GIRL, U AND CAMAGWINI ARE MY BEST

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  44. ASA says:

    Miss Dana i like ur music grl n i takes me other level and at that time i dnt want to b desturbed, u rly take me there with ur unique voice. kip it up girl im behind u every step of the way and neva gv. Kulture Noir is something else i cnt even say how i feel when im listning to it and I rly love NO. 2 N 5 keep up the gud work grl. Asa Lvs U a LOT

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  45. Ntombi u nail pin on the bulls eye, beyiyinde lendlela kodwa wena ukwazile ukuyi yenza yaba mfishane 4 mna, undenze nda ba umntu omsha emphilweni yami. Love u tons

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  46. Vuyo Mfumbe says:

    I cant wait for your Dvd, your music speaks to me, Great job Uyinkwenkwezi yethu Ms. Dana, umculo wakho undinika amandla (Ndiredi, wandinceda kunzima in my life). Pay no attention to abagxeki we love you in Mossel bay

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  47. sabstance says:

    one of the few artists worth my money….in ‘mayine’ i remembered the consciousness of nina simone….the dvd is super althought the shuffling of tracks made the energy build up impossible.

    my all time fav.artist….

    them jealous thugs coming anonymously…if its your take why be anonymous vele?

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  48. zenande says:

    “imvula ekhaya! Imvula ekhaya!” Wow!!! To think I used 2 hate on simphiwe dana scares me! Mayine is a masterpiece! Xhosa is a beautiful language and I wud have neva realised dat if it wasn’t 4 simphiwe dana’s music… Enkosi kakhulu sisi

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  49. Vuyiseka jaji says:

    Ohw Gosh thethelela i really cnt stop crying when listening to Mayine…simphiwe dana u r a blessing…uyandifekethisa umculo wakho.i luv u

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  50. EF says:

    I have all her albums and one dvd, guess I’m hooked. Qhubeka sisi.

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  51. Kholofelo Mokolo says:

    Not a day goes by without me playing a song from Kulture Noir, mina nawe, inkwenkwezi, mayine, ndimi qhawe part 2, ilolo. Before that it was naphakade from the One love album. As far as I’m aware this album has not picked up even one award statuette, why? I have no idea ‘cos this album in my humble opinion surpasses her first two, by Simphiwe does not strike me as an award-chaser, just a pure musician who only listens to the notes in in her dreams, not what is deemed hot right now.

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  52. Kholofelo Mokolo says:

    Not a day goes by without me playing a song from Kulture Noir, mina nawe, inkwenkwezi, mayine, ndimi qhawe part 2, ilolo. Before that it was naphakade from the One love album. As far as I’m aware this album has not picked up even one award statuette, why? I have no idea ‘cos this album in my humble opinion surpasses her first two, but Simphiwe does not strike me as an award-chaser, just a pure musician who only listens to the notes in in her dreams, not what is deemed hot right now.

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  53. Kholofelo Mokolo says:

    Point of correction: it seems Kulture has won two metros, any Samas yet?

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  54. What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge on the topic of unpredicted emotions.

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  55. aluta P says:

    Love simphiwe’s kulture noir…..a classic indeed…..am just hookd

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  56. Bonginkosi Mpho Madela says:

    I’ve bought all your album and Dvd’s ,I really love her,so addicted to her unique voice and love your well research poetic lyrics,loving the balanced colour in your song so deep and meaningful,your songs!wowed,Most South African are so lazy ,their music got tired quickly,but yours it for decades,when ever you revisit any old album it feels like a newly released hit,thankyou for taking your time to produce quality .Now I will love to see you performing live.

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  57. black-diamond says:

    Yhoooo hayi sisi uyayenza into yakho. I find myself listening to Mayine over and over again. The song alone touches my soul, it revives my spirit. You have given us nothing but the best of the best music. Ungadinwa ke nono. Uqhubeke wenze njalo. More fire

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  58. sazi says:

    u rock my world, i luv all your albums very much i wish to see you perfom.

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  59. sazi says:

    kip it up soul sister

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  60. Thimna Tibisono says:

    enkosi ngale i album… le ngoma ithi i\ndim iqhawe part 1 iyandiphambanisa >> i love u lots sister<<

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  61. P-G says:

    I first was introduced to Kulture Noir when I heard Ndim Nawe. I knew straight that I love the sound that I heard. When I bought the cd, I was taken back by Mzaliwam…. I thought no, it cant get better than this then I thought let the cd play whilst I clean the house. Dam then came Ndim iqhawe, then i remember I thought how proud I am of being a woman upon hearing this song. Ilolo,,,,no words,,,,Undishiyile,,,no words,,, Mayine,,,,no words,,,,Inkwekwezi,,,,no words,,,,,,….

    Its a perfect album, and then I made sure 25 of my friends buy the CD. You did well SImpra, you did very well…. Big up to a timeless album.

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  62. Anonymous says:

    mbela tikitiki wow im abig fan thanx cc

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  63. tsamandosi says:

    Ndim nawe ,ay that track bought tears I’m eyez, I’m Addicted to it much love Simphiwe Dana

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  64. Anonymous says:

    Ndim nawe ,ay that track bought tears in my eyez, I’m Addicted to it much love Simphiwe Dana

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  65. Mpho Faith Motloung says:

    wooooooow! that’s all I can say.

    keep it up(“,)

    this soul loves u

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