Originally written for Mark Sirett and the Cantabile Youth Singers of Kingston, Ontario, there is now a treble voicing written for the 2012 Windy City Youth Choral Festival, hosted by Elena Sharkova and her choir, also named Cantabile, although this Cantabile is from Silicon Valley. A Xhosa song well known in South Africa, "Dubula" has all the rhythmic drive and open-chord vocal gorgeousness you'd expect from a South African song, along with two other characteristics less common in the South African songs usually championed by the global choral movement. It opens with a half-chanted section in free time, which makes an excellent contrast when the driving rhythm suddenly kicks in. And unlike the "freedom song", "Dubula" has nothing to do with themes of religious and political struggle: it's just flat-out party. Optional dance steps, very easy to do and manageable on risers, are provided with the score. Although not hard to learn, "Dubula" makes for a barn-burning concert closer. I have had conflicting advice as to whether the syllable in the third measure be "ngom" or "ngem", but at the moment the "ngems" out-number the "ngoms" two to one, so I will go with "ngem". Oh yes, and in the chorus the syllable hayl
should rhyme with "smile", not "whale".
The phrase at m. 4-6 and 15-16 suggests a child whining that the bird has stolen all the food, and when I conduct this piece I get the singers to use a whining tone and rub their eyes like fretful children. In the SATB voicing the basses have accented, low-pitched figures on the word "Dubula" at m. 72, 74 and 76. Unless a choir has a bass section big and strong enough to pump out those low notes, I get the basses to jump up the octave for the three 'Dubula' figures. To see this option notated, click here
People have told me that when they look up "Dubula" on the web, they are sometimes led to a piece whose title and lyrics translate as "Shoot The Boer". This is not the same song as "Dubula", whose title does mean "shoot", but whose lyrics have no reference to the Boers or to shooting another person. When singers perform my arrangement of "Dubula", they are not advocating violence or revenge. "Dubula" did originally carry a subtext of "Africa for Africans", but now the song is performed with an ethos of high spirits and good will. I have seen South Africans of several races and geneologies join together in raising the roof.