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Looking Back on Ilanga & ‘True Love’ with the Iconic Busi Ncube

We recently tracked her down all the way to Europe to speak to her about her fondest memories of Ilanga and the song True Love in particular.

Sometime, in the lucky year of 1987, a star-studded, super-talented and multi-faceted Afro-Fusion group known to flawed humanity as Ilanga released their classic song, “True Love.” Whether or not you agree with this next statement does not matter, for its truth is indisputable:

“True Love” is one of the greatest songs of all time of ever, on all standards.

Over three decades later, the song still sounds as prescient and as necessary as it did on that very day it was unleashed upon the world. I sense you looking at me.

Possibly saying to yourself, “what is wrong with this fool, ‘True Love’ is cool and all but you bein’ real hyperbolic!”

Am I? Maybe. But allow me to present a case. Or don’t, but I will anyway. It’s my true love.

Do you see what I did there? You probably did.

True Love is a pure original, dope go-go jam. An unpublished survey that music heads and bored professors with Hitler-moustaches, wild goatees, shiny bald heads and stained spectacles are so reluctant to carry out will show that a lot of babies were made through this magic wand of a song. I don’t know if it’s because of my fascination for the 80s, but the energy I felt from the song when I heard it or was indeed old enough to actually grasp its poignant meaning was immediate.

I can still see the way some of my friends reacted whenever it came on.

With an enticing signature guitar riff that plunges everyone who is old enough to know it into a sonic frenzy, it starts out smooth, with Sibusiswe “Busi” Ncube singing in that way that drew everybody to her in the first place. It even has the breakdowns that keep you moving. I’m listening to this song as I’m writing this and I’m having a revelation that Busi and Illanga might as well have been a meteor that crashed into Zimbabwe.

Busi, now one of the few living members of the band, is an artist who deserves every bouquet of flowers she gets. Her voice, her sound, her poetry, her joy, her realism, etc. I don’t know if she’s always being 100 per cent transparent, but she feels like she is and that is why she still has a career and a presence and is an artist loved and revered by many.

We recently tracked her down all the way to Europe to speak to her about her fondest memories of Ilanga and the song True Love in particular.

Here is our exchange:

#enthuse

Ilanga the band was made up of yourself Busi (vocals), the late Don Gumbo (bass ), the late Andy Brown (guitar and vocals), the late Comrade Chinx (Vocals), Virgilio Ignacia, Charles Mangena, (percussion….later to be replaced by the late Adam Chisvo), Keith Farquharson (keyboards), Munya Brown and subsequently Gibson Nyoni on drums. Countless tributes have been written about your short but unforgettable moments together but usually, people don’t really fathom how you got together. Can you please share briefly on how you came to be.

Busi: The first time we met as a group was in Harare. Our Manager Charles Chimambo approached me at the time and said: “The boys needed a female singer.” I was with Job Combination at Jobs-Night Spot, and Ilanga used to rehearse at Playboy night club. Both Jobs Nightspot and the club were owned by the same person. I joined ILANGA as a lead singer, my previous band had helped me to establish my craft.

#enthuse: What are some of the common anomalies or misconceptions that people make about Ilanga?

There were no misconceptions, except that people were angry after the band’s break up because we were a very strong and famous group of our time.

#enthuse: Being the only woman in the band would you say you have any misgivings about the band and if any please share? Were there any instances you could say gender played you out in the outfit’s decision making?

When I joined the group the then drummer was against me joining Ilanga. I proved to be a good fit for the band and he eventually left the group and Gibson Nyoni then replaced him and the group was tighter. I was always an equal member of the group. My input in decision making was equally consulted and considered just like the boys’.

#enthuse: “True Love” is a Zimbabwean classic song. When was it released, what inspired it and what was the creative process like?

True Love was first released on an album in 1987 and later as remix single. We shared all our ideas and if one came with a song then all the members played or sang and improved the idea as a group, like a well-oiled machine.

#enthuse: Have you ever heard any funny, sad stories or peculiar memories about the song? If any please do tell.

 My inspiration for the song came as I was a young woman, looking for a relationship that was based on True Love and not material things.

#enthuse: Now looking back over 30 years, did you think the song’s lifespan would be so long and why do you think is its undying power? Like what makes a classic song?

Busi: When we were recording the song in the studio, a lot of people that dropped by during True Love’s recording talked about how big of an impact the song was going to make, but I just thought it was the excitement. At the time, I believed in the song of course. I figured it would do fairly well. When I look back I realise that I was proven otherwise! Thankfully, it’s still here, a classic song makes its resonance. The message still relevant, and now more than ever as I see dating is more difficult for this generation.

#enthuse: Say you would want to make a video about it, what would look like and who would you like to star?

Busi: The ‘True love’ video was recorded during a live performance which was fine for us. I leave the imagination to the young generation to breathe new life to the song.

#enthuse: Thank you Busi.

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