Obituary: Themba Xulu

2014-04-29 00:00

PIPE organist Themba Xulu, a legend in church music circles and a renowned local maths and science teacher, died last Wednesday.

Xulu (63) suffered ill-health from childhood and has been in and out of hospital all his life. His family believes he survived this long because of his devotion to the church. The resident organist at the Anglican Cathedral of Holy Nativity for the past 14 years, Xulu had also played the organ in churches of different denominations throughout the country.

His son, Xolani, said he would be asked to play at weddings and funerals and he never said no spending his weekends playing the organ at different churches. A week before his death he was the organist at the funeral of the father of his former music student, Ntuthuko Sibisi.

Xulu’s services as a church musician span a period of over 30 years and he was presented with the Order of the Holy Nativity for distinguished lay service by Anglican Bishop Rubin Phillip. Brought up a Presbyterian, in an interview with The Witness in 2010, he said he became an Anglican because he fell in love with the pipe organ at St Saviour’s Church.

He described the sound of the pipe organ as the purest form of music. He was the first black musician to play on the Pietermaritzburg City Hall pipe organ in 2000 to mark its 100th anniversary. The late Archbisop Denis Hurley heard him play at the Esigodini Catholic Church and offered him a bursary to study music. Xulu said he wanted to study the sciences and Hurley still gave him the bursary.

Xulu was first taught the piano by his mother Agnes from the age of six. He was a member of the Royal School of Church Music and over the years has trained other church organists.

Academically he was an outstanding student and was to have studied medicine, but had to drop out because of his health constraints. He did a BSc and became a maths and science teacher. Xulu recently retired as a teacher at Njoloba High School. According to Xolani, the family were struck by how well loved he was because they are being inundated by calls from ex-pupils.

“Even while he was a teacher and would end up in hospital, his pupils would arrive in their numbers to visit him,” Xolani added. He went on to say that his father was also commended for achieving top maths and physics results in his school.

Xulu recently completed a Masters degree in Mathematics and was registered with the University of Fort Hare to do a doctorate in philosophy.

For the Xulu family, Themba will be remembered as the big brother who provided for them after the death of their parents, even if it meant using his bursary money to buy food. He kept them strong during the political trials and the execution of Sipho “MaChina” Xulu, and served as a role model to a younger generation within the family who are all making their mark in the musical, political and economic fields.

Xulu did not marry. He leaves a brother and three sisters, a daughter, Ndi, and sons Xolani and Siyanda. In September last year the family lost a younger brother and prominent local teacher, Musa Xulu, who died in a horrific accident on the N2 while on his way from Eshowe.

Xulu’s funeral takes place at 9 am on Thursday, May 1 at the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Langalibalele Street.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.