South African singer Tutu Puoane’s new album Wrapped in Rhythm (Vol. I) features the poetry of South African poet Lebogang Mashile. The blend of Puoane’s vocals with Mashile’s words is absolutely stunning!

Tutu Puoane is a South African Jazz singer. She studied jazz vocals at the University of Cape Town and received several awards from major South African jazz competitions. In 2002, Puoane moved to Europe and studied at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague (Netherlands). She then relocated to Antwerp in Belgium, which is her current home. Her award-winning discography includes Quiet Now (2009), Song (2007) and Breathe (2012). She also worked with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and created the album Mama Africa celebrating the Music Icon Miriam Makeba.

In her new album, Puoane sings poetry from Mashile’s poetry anthology In a Ribbon of Rhythm (2005), a feminist collection about identity, violence against women, and South Africa’s “rainbow nation”. In an interview with Puoane, The Conversation notes that the result of this collaboration is an “incredible, exquisite album that is also a profound intersection of artistic minds” and “Mashile and Puoane exemplify the necessity of black women’s work in teaching us about ourselves.”

In the interview, Puoane notes that this project was inspired by a quote by American writer Aja Monet, saying “words are symbols of sound”. She remarks that this was precisely what Mashile’s poetry was to her:

It was in a way quite spiritual. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. The poems from In A Ribbon Of Rhythm were already flowing with so much melody, lyricism and, of course, rhythm. I imagined vocalists like Joni Mitchell, Sade, Laura Mvula singing Lebo’s words. So I started recording melodies with the poems on my phone, just rough sketches of what I was hearing in my head. Some songs are exactly as I had improvised them the first time and recorded them on my phone. Some had a lot more work of course.

We love when African creatives decide to blend different genres and Puoane’s songs drawing on Mashile’s poetry is a brilliant example of a successful feat. Check out the music video for one of the songs on the album “Latitude” below:

Congrats to Puoane on the new album! Listen to it on Spotify here.