Thandiswa Mazwai, CNN

Singer Thandiswa Mazwai on African Voices.

This week, African Voices reports from Johannesburg, South Africa, where the programme meets world-renowned singer Thandiswa Mazwai, who talks about the power of music as social expression.

African Voices airs Friday 10 February at 11:30 CAT on CNN International.

Exploding onto South Africa’s music scene at the age of 22, the programme hears how music has played a critical part of Mazwai’s life, from her childhood in Soweto to performing in Bongo Maffin and as a solo artist.


Mazwai explains to African Voices why the evolution of kwaito during her time with Bongo Maffin was so significant as a form of social expression: “We started to represent something a little more conscious… One that interrogates issues like, oppression and freedom, memory. The black struggle for freedom and the black struggle for the understanding of that freedom, now that we have it.”


African Voices hears how the group’s exploration of nationwide social issues also allowed Mazwai to express her own story growing up in South Africa, which has carried through to her current music.


Mazwai tells the programme: “My story is one of a black person growing up in Apartheid South Africa - how did I navigate that and how did I survive that? It is also the story of a black South African in, what is now, the new South Africa… It's also a story of great celebration, a story of great joy. I'm a mother, I'm a musician, who travels the world and sees beautiful things - that's my story, I write about that.”


African Voices follows Mazwai through her old neighbourhood in Soweto, where she spent most of her childhood and what proved to be where she found her voice.


Having started her musical career in 1998, Mazwai reflects on her roots and beginning singing: “I never imagined I would become a singer, at all. I knew that I had a love of it and that there was something about music that made me feel free… I had always thought that music was some kind of superpower that Michael Jackson and Brenda Fassie had, they had this kind of magical power to do it.”


Over the course of her career, Mazwai has been able to perform across the continent and has been able to share the stage with some of the continent’s most celebrated artists.


Mazwai explains how she hopes collaborating with other African musicians can help raise the profile of African art as a whole: “We are a very beautiful, creative, energetic, happy, engaged, smart, fresh, current, ancient people… African art is everywhere, African music is everywhere so, Africa is all around you - you just have to accept it and see it for what it is.”


Also in this week’s African Voices, the programme travels to Nigeria to meet one of the country’s biggest singers Tiwa Savage and reports from Zambia where it meets rising freestyle star Fungai Chileshe.


African Voices is sponsored by Globacom Limited.


African Voices airs Friday 10 February at 11:30 CAT on CNN International.