Willard Cele

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Although Willard Cele was born and raised in a segregated South African township, although he was disabled, and although he died young, his impact on South African music was immense. Cele's innovation…
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Although Willard Cele was born and raised in a segregated South African township, although he was disabled, and although he died young, his impact on South African music was immense. Cele's innovation was to turn a flute or pennywhistle sideways in the mouth, which created a "thick" sound and allowed the player to vary the tone and range of the instrument far beyond its designed abilities. Cele's style of playing became especially popular after his 1951 appearance in the movie The Magic Garden. Pennywhistlers started to flourish throughout South Africa, where they played illegally on street corners, avoiding the White police who sought to arrest them. It was from the oft-heard Afrikans order "Kwela!" (climb up!) barked at pennywhistlers being ordered into police vans, that the music adopted that name. Thanks to the example of Cele, Kwela became a popular and enduring form in South Africa.