Original Research - Special Collection: Social Memory Studies

Ku Hluvukile eka ‘Zete’: Recovering history and heritage through the influence of Xitsonga disco muso, Obed Ngobeni

Vonani F. Bila
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 2 | a6806 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i2.6806 | © 2021 Vonani F. Bila | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2021 | Published: 03 November 2021

About the author(s)

Vonani F. Bila, Department of Languages, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa


This article explores the influence of the musician Obed Ngobeni (1954–2002) and his backing singers the Kurhula Sisters. It catalogues his significance as a pioneer of Xitsonga disco that helped shape South Africa’s ‘township bubblegum’ sound of the ’80s. The author argues that Ngobeni defied apartheid’s social engineering in an attempt to foster and affirm African cultural values. This form of resistance is exemplified by the influential 1983 track Ku Hluvukile eka ‘Zete’ (There is Progress at ZZ2), later entitled Kazet which has become a recognisable classic and anthem. Veteran musicians such as Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, Harry Belafonte and several deejays have recorded versions of Kazet and toured the world, thus extending its reach beyond racial and ethnic confines – placing it on the continent and world music circuit. Ngobeni’s music serves as an example of excellence emanating from the so-called backward and ‘unbookish’ pockets of our country. Hence, the author argues that music on the periphery is central in shaping critical perspectives, cultural affirmation and conscientising people around the issues of labour exploitation, cultural and historical marginalisation. Through the song Ku Hluvukile eka ‘Zete’, Ngobeni reimagined a new, humane and egalitarian society way back in the ’80s before the advent of liberation and democracy in South Africa. Through oral testimonies and interviews of men and women who worked on the ZZ2 farms as well as musical archives and other phenomenological approaches, the story of Ngobeni is revealed with sensitivity to the factors that foregrounded his music.

Contribution: This article records, preserves, popularises and studies the role of resistance music through Ngobeni’s song Ku Hluvukile eka ‘Zete’ within the multidisciplinary fields of social sciences, using, in the main, oral history techniques to document the untold rural story of an unheralded artist.


Obed Ngobeni; Ku Hluvukile eka ‘Zete’; Xitsonga disco; resistance; ZZ2 tomato farms; people’s consciousness; paradise in Gazankulu; conditions on farms


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