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South African Group to Sing at Inspire

April 20, 2022
Members of the South African singing group Lufhalafhala
Members of the South African singing group Lufhalafhala

When six South African young people began singing together at a youth conference in 2016, they had no idea that their music would eventually take them to Chicago, Ill., to be part of a North America-wide event for Christian Reformed churches.

“We started singing together as a voluntary musical item in the program of a youth conference,” said Hangwi Liphadzi, the leader of the group, which will perform at Inspire 2022.

“Following the conference, one of our youth pastors requested that we sing at his upcoming wedding. We wrote and performed a song at the wedding and then began singing together informally at different church events in 2017, until we decided to formally start Lufhalafhala in 2018.”

The group’s name, Lufhalafhala, is a Tshivenda word for a musical instrument similar to the biblical shofar (made from a ram’s horn). It is used by community leaders in South Africa to call people together when an event – good or bad – has occurred and the people need to be informed.

“We chose the name Lufhalafhala because we are heeding God's call while also blowing the horn with a message to give to the world,” said Liphadzi. “This message is expressed through the content of our music, joyful or painful, for all to hear and reflect on. Although we have not yet incorporated the shofar into our songs, we are using a djembe, a complementary instrument that is also used to send a message in our culture.”

The six-member singing group consists of Liphadzi, his sister Mukona, and Adivhaho Ravuluma, Dzanga Tshishonge, Nduvho Tshishonge, and Vhamudivhe Rabali.

“Given that we are not formally trained in music, we sing and perform organically and are driven by the passion to worship God through music,” Liphadzi said. He added that “singing and performing have proved therapeutic to us as young adults as we seek to find ourselves in this constantly evolving world. It has also been fundamental in building the unity of fellowship amongst us as friends.”

Lufhalafhala’s connection to Inspire 2022 is a journey that started many years ago.

“Hangwi Liphadzi was actually born in Grand Rapids [Mich.] while his father was studying at Calvin Theological Seminary,” said Steve Timmermans, a former executive director of the CRCNA. “He returned to South Africa as a child and grew up there. He returned to the U.S. again a few years ago, and one of the things he experienced during that visit was the Calvin Worship Institute Symposium in Grand Rapids. That led him to think more about how a group he was involved in back home could provide music appropriate to his Tshivenda culture and language.”

Timmermans, who met Liphadzi at that time, was a key part of the planning team for Inspire 2021. As he got to know Liphadzi, they wondered if they could bring the South Africa group to join in with the next denominational Inspire event.

“Hangwi’s trip to the U.S., and to Grand Rapids in particular, helped him discover how important it was to use his Reformed faith in a way that would give witness to his culture and language as well as his faith in Jesus Christ,” said Timmermans. “That seemed like an important message for Inspire attendees to hear as well.”

When Inspire 2021 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lufhalafhala’s invitation was extended to 2022 instead. The group is excited about the opportunity.

“It is said that music can alter moods and talk to you. This makes the making and performing of music so much more important. It speaks to us,” Liphadzi said. “In South Africa, we sing in celebration, mourning, and times of desperation. We do it because it allows us to alter and punctuate the moods of people in different situations and talk to people about the message of God's grace in a creative way.”

That’s what the group hopes to do at Inspire 2022.

“In a world where we have been locked down because of the pandemic, we hope to inspire the conference with our musical stylings inspired by our own context,” Liphadzi said.

He also expects that the event will be a blessing to the group members in return.

“We are looking forward to being inspired by the global worship styles of fellow believers across the world and basking in the glory of worship with them,” he explained. “We also cannot wait to be inspired by the conference itself, from the logistical arrangements, the program, and the organization thereof. We would like to be like a fountain that waters similar kinds of worship conferences to grow in the near future back home.”