Learn Kwela

With a web site with as little traffic as the Kwela Project, it’s pretty easy to notice what kind of things are bringing visitors here. For example, Sunday’s BBC Prom performance by the Buskaid Soweto String Project, which you can still listen to online, resulted in a number of visits that had been referred from Google.

About a week ago, someone arrived at the Kwela Project as a result of typing ‘learn kwela‘ into Google. It has always been my intention that the project help aspiring kwelaleses (made up group noun) with music and technical tips, but it’s taken this long to listen to enough music, and read around the subject enough to feel that I’ve something worth saying.

Dolos is a catchy tune by Spokes Mashiyane that is the seventh track on King Kwela CD (available via the Kwela Project Store as a digital download). There are four main themes that Spokes varies and elaborates upon – these are transcribed below. Although they’re written in the key of D major, play them on a B flat whistle to be in the same key as the recording. Most kwela is played on a B flat whistle.

Dolos by Spokes Mashiyane


  1. Thanks for doing this. I’ve really loved Kwela, but as a beginning musician, couldn’t figure out how to get started. Your transcriptions will really help me out.

  2. Hi Serena
    I’m afraid I can’t really help, beyond pointing out that the song’s title is usually spelled “Mama Tembu’s Wedding” and is by a South African singer called Margaret Singana:


    You can hear her version of it on last.fm:


    I’d be kind’a surprised if it was published as sheet music, so probably your best way forward is to find a talented musician whose arrangements you already enjoy, and commission him or her to arrange the piece for your wedding.

    Good luck!

  3. The best way to learn how to play is by ear. I listened to the Spokes Mashyane, Lemmy Special, Abiya Themba, and a lessor known Frank Mudau in the early sixties and started practising. I still can play most of the old tunes with my own variations toi them. Of course I have composed my own over the years. They are in my head.

  4. I typed ‘Kwela Music’ into google and found your site. Play a bit of d penny whistle – now off to buy a bflat. Can you post a few more print music transcriptions?

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