Performance Saturday, October 11, 2014 | 9 PM

Madala Kunene

Zankel Hall
A pair of masters from KwaZulu-Natal headlines a double bill that showcases two aspects of contemporary Zulu maskandi music, often dubbed the “Zulu blues.” Madala Kunene and his quintet draw on the spiritual aspects of the style, while Phuzekhemisi performs exuberant, high-energy music with singers and dancers in traditional attire.

Part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall.


  • Madala Kunene
  • Phuzekhemisi

Event Duration

The program will last approximately two and one-half hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Madala Kunene

    Despite the pressure to adopt Western music influences, Madala Kunene has refused to give in to commercial whim, choosing rather to draw influences from traditional Zulu folklore and culture. He regularly performs for audiences around the world, while also collaborating with a new wave of South African folk musicians.

    Born in Cato Manor, South Africa, Kunene relocated to a township near Durban called KwaMashu after he and his family had been evicted by the Apartheid government. After initial forays into imitating Western music, Kunene quickly tired of the restraints that came with it, and soon began writing and playing his own brand of South African folk music. He has since shared the stage with legends like Doc Mthalane, Songamasu, Shor Phillips, Mankunku Ngozi, and Busi Mhlongo, as well as being featured on albums by the likes of Sipho Gumede and Mandla Masuka.

    Shophi Ngidiis an accomplished musician and performer. Her powerful vocal range and traditional Zulu dance style from the Umbumbulu region of KwaZulu-Natal, combined with her genuine and warm stage presence, engages audiences around the world. Ngidi's lyrics express pride in Zulu culture and traditions, reminding people to follow the ways and guidance of their ancestors. She is a skilled composer, musician, vocalist and dancer. Although she is most familiar with Zulu traditions, she also knows the languages and traditions of other South Africans. In Johannesburg, she worked with many well-known artists, including pop stars Brenda Fassie and Mercy Pakela, as well as jazz legend Hugh Masekela.

    Mduduzi Magwazaand Madala Kunene have known each other for years, dating back to their forced removal from Cato Manor to KwaMashu in 1959. In the late 1970s, Magwaza joined the internationally acclaimed Mango Groove. The band's unique and magical blend of South African marabi, kwela, and pop influences-together with the voice and presence of lead singer Claire Johnston and the evocative penny whistle melodies of Magwaza-has captivated audiences around the world. In 2010, Magwaza was musically reunited with his old friend Kunene.

    Musa Vincent Mtetwahas performed as a jazz musician and regularly collaborates with traditional African musicians throughout South Africa. He started working with Madala Kunene in 2002, excelling with Kunene's blend of blues and African folk music. In addition to Kunene, he has shared the stage with many great musicians, including Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Dludlu, Selaelo Selota, Caiphus Semenya, and Brian Thusi. His career as a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has exposed him to many great musicians and allowed him to mentor others in the process.

    Bernard Mndaweniis one of the most versatile electric bass players in South Africa. He is equally at home with the maskandi styles of Madala Kunene or Busi Mhlongo as he is with jazz and Zulu dance music. His is a founding member of PedXulu and has collaborated with such artists as Byron Wallen, Ricky Randimbiarison, Amampondo, Mabi Thobejane, Thabang Tabane, Ntombe Thongo, and LAP. Mndaweni is the deputy secretary of the KwaMashu Development Initiative, a successful youth program in his township outside Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. 

    Paki Peloeolewas born in Taung in the North West Province of South Africa and studied music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is in constant demand as a sideman on the South African jazz and theater circuit, appearing frequently at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, UKZN. His percussion talents have achieved the highest level of artistry, earning him collaborations with the likes of Hugh Masekela, Busi Mhlongo, and Salif Keita. Peloeole has been preforming in Madala Kunene's band for the past five years.

    More Info

  • Phuzekhemisi

    Maskandi living legend Phuzekhemisi is back with another album that is surely bound to make people talk. Born Bizokwakhe Mnyandu in Umkhomazi on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, Phuzekhemisi is one man known for not being afraid to speak his own mind through music, which has earned him renown as the king of the indigenous maskandi and is rightfully dubbed the "People's Voice." The quality of expression without fear or favor goes back to his first ever big hit "Imbizo" that he did with his late brother Khethani in 1989. His lyrics were infused with commentary and political outspokenness over issues that plagued the people from his village and South Africa as a whole.

    That has continued to be Phuzekhemisi's specialty. The ability of his music to appeal to many people in different spheres of life has seen him achieve multiplatinum sales. "I have not changed from the Phuzekhemisi people know," he says. "I still highlight problems that fellow South Africans face on a day to day basis. And most importantly, I still sing about the things I see happening where I come from in the hills of Umkhomazi."

    Phuzekhemisi remains true to his rural roots as he still chooses to live in his traditional Zulu home in Umkomaas and maintains that he will never leave. His new album Bayede Zulu is no different from his past 20 albums-the music is still politically influenced and is a communicating tool to address people's problems.

    More Info


Madala Kunene, Zulu Guitar | Lungiswa Plaatjies, Nyungwe
Sheer Group

Sihle Mthembu on Madala Kunene and Phuzekhemisi

Madala Kunene, commonly referred to as the king of the Zulu guitar, lives in a house in the middle of a newly gentrified suburb just outside of Durban in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. He is often described as an mbaqanga or maskandi artist—something he personally hates. Kunene is an artist who is constantly shifting between musical habitats. He has no interest in genre specifications and prescriptions. Instead, his brand of blues operates in an opaque space where cool jazz, maskandi, mbaqanga, and a myriad of East Coast blues intersect.
Program Notes


UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa

Lead funding for UBUNTU: Music and Arts of South Africa is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Mai Family Foundation, South African Tourism, and South African Airways.

UBUNTU is held in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture of the Republic of South Africa and the South African Consulate General in New York in celebration of 20 years of freedom and democracy.
This performance is part of World Views, and UBUNTU: Traditional Music.

Part of