Definitions for kwela
This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word kwela
a kind of danceable music popular among black South Africans; includes a whistle among its instruments
A style of music first played in the townships whose principal instrument is the penny whistle.
Origin: Nguni group of languages: kwela get-up, climb.
Kwela is a pennywhistle-based, street music from southern Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat. It evolved from the marabi sound and brought South African music to international prominence in the 1950s. The music has its roots in southern Africa but later adaptations of this and many other African folk idioms have permeated Western music, giving modern South African music, particularly jazz, much of its distinctive sound and lilting swagger. One reason for the use of the pennywhistle is that it is cheap and portable, but it also lends itself as a solo or an ensemble instrument. The popularity of the pennywhistle may have been based on the fact that flutes of different kinds have long been traditional instruments among the peoples of the more northerly parts of South Africa, and the pennywhistle thus enabled the swift adaptation of folk tunes into the new marabi-influenced music. The pennywhistle also symbolizes the oppression of blacks during the South African apartheid, because in nearly all of the oppressed racial groups, the pennywhistle could be used to warn others of the arrival of whites or police forces. In kwela music, it tends to have a strongly negative connotation.
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