Audio

Simphiwe Dana Releases Symphony Experience Concert

Fans can now relive Simphiwe Dana's Symphony Experience concert.

SOUTH AFRICA–Last year, South African afro soul-jazz musician Simphiwe Dana performed with a 60-piece orchestra and a 30-piece choir. The concert, which was called The Simphiwe Dana Symphony Experience, was aired on BET.


Fans can now relive the experience, as  last week, Dana released an album and a DVD of the concert. The project is two hours long, and features Dana taking fans through her rich catalog—from her earlier hits like “Zandisile” and “Ndiredi,” to her more recent material like “Firebrand” and “Nzinga,” and everything in between.

A special moment during the concert is when she performs a song she wrote for Winnie Mandela with the apartheid struggle hero present in the audience—a moment the artist expresses as very dear to her.

Special guests like Nigeria’s Asa and Equatorial Guinea’s Concha Buika, among others, also featured in the concert.

The Simphiwe Dana Symphony Experience is exactly that—an experience, and one that you probably won’t get from nobody but Dana, an artist who places so much sentimental value on her music, and does everything in her power to make you feel that.

Stream the audio version of The Simphiwe Dana Symphony Experience below, and download it on iTunes. The DVD is available at music shops across South Africa.

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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