Letta Mbulu was one of the first artists to perform at the launch of the Tribute Concert in Orlando, Soweto, ten years ago. Then the concert celebrated the return of exile musicians like her, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Caiphus Semenya.

Mbulu recalls that first time: "I was home. I was excited. My friends were there. Children of my friends were there. It was a wonderful return."

Since then she has been a constant feature at this annual jazz event which has been held at Moretele Park, Mamelodi, for a while now. She and her husband, Caiphus, are favourites among the crowd. They sang Maru a Pula and everybody went crazy. By the time Letta sang Music in the Air the mood was set.

Her performance this year will be special, as she will sample songs from her new album, Culani Nami. She is very happy with it.

"The themes are a great combination of good love and social comment. I love the stories on the album - they touch people and they touch me."

Social commentary has always been at the forefront of Mbulu's music, influenced by the history of this country and how it forced her to make it outside of SA. Soon after she returned she recorded Not Yet Uhuru, with the title track inspired by the poverty she saw around her.

It could be argued that the song still has relevance to the current state of the country.

"I think it still applies. Freedom is only available to a few. The poverty of our people is real. I have a song on the new album called Siphazamephi Na? I'm asking where we went wrong if poverty is still with us? Maybe there are mistakes we made along the way. I think we need to understand those mistakes and shouldn't lose hope. Let's see how far we can go to change things," she says.

Mbulu's husband, Semenya, co-produced the new album. So how was it for her to be in the studio after such a long time? "It was hard. People forget us. It was like starting from scratch, but it was a good exercise."

But she isn't forgotten at all. On their second album, local hip-hop trio, Morafe, sampled her song, Never Leave You on their Letter To Motswako. What does she think of this? "I've heard about it, but haven't heard the song. I'm glad they're taking ownership of what is theirs."

Back to the Tribute Concert. "I'm proud of its continuity and the platform it's given other artists."she says.

  • The concert takes place on December 2 at Moretele Park, Mamelodi. A special tribute will be played to Lucky Dube.

    Other musicians include Hugh Masekela, Caiphus Semenya, Jonas Gwangwa, Don Laka, Jimmy Dludlu, Budhaza, Ringo, Judith Sephuma, Vusi Mahlasela, Ntando, Mafikizolo, Malaika and Siphokazi. Tickets are R160 at Computicket.