Definition of kwela in English:



mass noun
  • 1A style of rhythmical, repetitive popular music of central and southern Africa, resembling jazz, in which the lead part is usually played on the penny whistle.

    • ‘It has 14 tracks that showcase a variety of musical styles like dance, reggae, jazz, mbaqanga, kwela and gospel.’
    • ‘When the popularity of kwela started to fade, Black Mambazo swapped the pennywhistle for the saxophone.’
    • ‘By the 1960s, whites too had become avid fans of township jazz, which had sprouted into kwela's instrumental music and mbaqanga, a vocal jazz style.’
    • ‘Freshlyground is indigenous African folk mixed with jazz, soul, kwela and dance hall music.’
    • ‘African Rhythms traces various musical pathways from marabi through to kwela and mbaqanga and explores the lives of those who made the music.’
    1. 1.1count noun A type of dance performed to kwela.
      • ‘The kwela and twist, performed by the Rainbow Theatre Community Group, brought back memories of Sophiatown, the suburb that symbolised the city's melding of many cultures and which was destroyed by apartheid's forced removals.’


1950s: Afrikaans, perhaps from Zulu khwela ‘mount, climb’.