If there is one thing kwaito music sensation Mandoza did in his career, it was to bring people together. His mega-hit Nkalakatha is South Africa’s party anthem for people of all colours.
The legendary star, despite looking frail, performed about a week ago at the Thank You SABC concert at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. He died yesterday afternoon, aged 38, after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
Mandoza, who was born Mduduzi Edmund Tshabalala in Soweto, created the group Chiskop with S’bu Siphiwe and Sizwe. He later went solo, and in 2000 released the hit Nkalakatha, which went multi-platinum. His other hits included 50/50, Tornado, Godoba, Sgelekeqe and Respect Life.
He also worked on the iconic Yizo Yizo soundtrack for the hit show in the late ’90s. As news broke of Mandoza’s death, people from all parts of the spectrum began talking about their memories of his music.
According to poet Mzwakhe Mbuli, who was one of last week’s concert organisers, Mandoza had told him that he wanted to continue performing at more concerts. Mbuli spoke to the hit maker a few days after the concert.
“Mandoza said to me that we should organise more concerts as he just wanted to perform for the masses. He just wanted to perform more, even after he found out about the cancer,” he said.
Mbuli said Mandoza’s work was admired and loved by all people of all races.
“We have lost a giant and without a doubt the whole nation is in mourning. Little did we know that his appearance at Orlando last week was his farewell,” Mbuli said.
He called on people to respect Mandoza by not selling pirated CDs.
The director of variety programme Selimathunzi, Baby Joe Correia, who has often worked with Mandoza, remembered the kwaito star as “tough on the exterior”, but in reality a “softie”.
“He was always so chilled and always made himself available for interviews. He was always polite and a gentleman in the studio,” Correia said, adding that Mandoza had been a dynamic person with a presence. “He made a huge impact in the mid-’90s and came out with Chiskop, and then he went solo.
“He was up there with the Arthurs and the Trompies – he was a rough boy from the township. His song Nkalakatha became a national anthem – even white people were singing and dancing to it at their weddings,” said Correia giggling.
“He may have been quiet of late but no one forgot about him; that he was something very special.” Former Boom Shaka member Thembi Seete said she was heartbroken.
“I woke up today to this awful news and I just didn’t want to deal with it. We were very close and I had a massive amount of respect for him. He is still a powerful force and I can still hear his voice, even now.
“Mandoza was a major influence on South African music and played a huge role in the industry. He was a boy from the ghetto who made the rest of us open-minded about what we could possibly do with our careers. He pushed himself and opened the gate for many of us. He played a huge role in all of our careers.”
DJ Cleo said he had been inspired by Mandoza, an artist who had stood the test of time, having been in the industry for about 20 years.
Mandoza was one of South Africa’s first and biggest celebrities, but he didn’t impose his stardom on you, he said.
“He was willing to take instruction and advice.”
Aside from working together, DJ Cleo and Mandoza also shared a personal friendship and DJ Cleo attended Mandoza’s wedding in 2004.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Mandoza had contributed immensely to nation-building through songs such as Respect Life in which he detailed his experiences, the mistakes he had made and encouraged his audience to reach for their dreams, give back to their communities once successful, and to avoid drugs.
Mandoza is survived by his wife, Mpho, and his children.