The return of I Fagiolini

NOTE: This post was originally posted as one of a daily series highlighting interesting singing from around the web


For the rest of this series I’ll be publishing an hour later, at 10am GMT on each day of Advent. I am posting a video each day of a piece which, in my opinion, celebrates the best of music made by the human voice – with the occasional quirky video thrown in for good measure! Today is the beginning of the third week, and you can catch up with the full Choral Christmas here.


Traditional Zulu chant, performed by I Fagiolini

Back on the first day of Advent, and the first day of this series, I promised a return visit from the quite magnificent I Fagiolini, and here it is. This is a recording from the 2002 Ambronay European Baroque Academy which takes place annualy in Ambronay Abbey. There are photos of what looks like a magnificent building, here (opens in new window/tab).

This performance makes me cry. Every, every time. Which is absurd when you think that it was only very recently that I listened carefully enough to realise there are passages of English to be heard. There are still sections where I have no idea what the words say, or what the intended sentiment is.

In the absence of a shared understanding, we are free create our own. This can be a wonderful thing, and I know exactly what this piece means to me. It’s thrilling that my meaning resonates closely with the words you may pick out from the one minute mark about ‘this winding road… no matter what it takes this road will take me home.’

There is no information on YouTube as to what this piece is, and I think I detected at least three languages in the performance.  Posting this entry up, I tried to find more information and I suspect a recording of this work can be found on the album Simunye, and that this is the cover blurb:

Trad. Zulu arr. Dlamini (b.1965) – Kwa Zulu senzeni? (Kwa Zulu, what’s our crime?)

When we were preparing for the exchange project, I Fagiolini asked whether the SDASA Chorale knew of any traditional African chant which could be compared with Gregorian chant. Mokale immediately thought of Zulu amahubo music, and played us an example which had been recorded by the revered Princess Magogo (mother of Chief Buthelezi) in the 1970s. I Fagiolini was fascinated by the recording and Bheka decided to make an arrangement of the chant that could be sung by both groups.

Bheka says: “That tape took me back home and reminded me of the olden days, those terrible days, which saw the destruction of the Zulu nation.” It is indeed about the destruction of Shaka’s nation that Princess Magogo was singing, and so I asked Bheka why he wanted to sing the song with a group of English men and women, descendents of an empire that played such an active role in that process. “They liked the song,” he replied, “and I thought that it would be nice to sing it together; it would show unity. We can all share our fruit of life.”

If that’s not a sentiment appropriate for Christmas and Advent, I don’t know what is.


Robin Fenwick

Communications Director and public affairs professional, digital specialist, ex political activist, early music enthusiast.
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