Xhosa music has long been a major part of the music of South Africa, especially in the field of jazz. There are many Xhosa clans, each with their own styles of drumming and dialects.
NoFinish Dywili assisted from 1979 in Africanising local Christian liturgical music and the Ngqoko Women’s Cultural Group helped preserve the Xhosa music of the village of Ngqoko, including the married woman’s umngqungqo style, danced at the intonjane ceremony of girls’ rites of passage. Professor Andrew Tracey, director of the International Library of African Music, commented on “the polyphonic singing, the three types of bow they play (including the uhadi gourd bow) the umngqokolo overtone singing”. According to Tracey, the Khoisan had a big influence on this music.
Xhosa traditional music places a strong emphasis on group singing and handclapping as accompaniment to dance. Drums, while used occasionally, were not as fundamental a part of musical expression as they were for many other African peoples. Other instruments used included rattles, whistles, flutes, mouth harps, and stringed-instruments constructed with a bow and resonator.
Missionaries introduced the Xhosa to Western choral singing. Among the most successful of the Xhosa hymns is the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikele’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa). It was written by a school teacher named Enoch Sontonga in 1897.
Xhosa written literature was established in the nineteenth century with the publication of the first Xhosa newspapers, novels, and plays. Early writers included Tiyo Soga, I. Bud-Mbelle, and John Tengo Jabavu.