Tributes: KZN’s Maskandi great busi mhlongo warmly remembered following her death

2010-06-17 00:00

A HUGE void has been left in the music industry, with the death of “maskandi queen” Busi Mhlongo, who died after a long battle with breast cancer on Tuesday night.

Mhlongo will be remembered as an entertainer and actress. Born in Durban’s Inanda township 62 years ago, Mhlongo was not only a maskandi singer but collaborated on other genres such as mbaqanga, marabi, traditional Zulu, reggae, gospel, opera, jazz, funk, rock and wes­t African music.

Her long-time friend, Nise Malange, who is the director of the Bat Centre, said although she had been suffering for a while, “it is hard and really painful to accept that she is gone. I will remember the times when I cried, laughed, danced and sang with her.

“Through her music, she carried the pain of the country. She was a fun, loving person.”

Malange said it is a pity that sometimes the importance of artists is only realised when it is too late.

“It is important to pay tribute while they are still alive. It saddens us that she died before we had unveiled her monument at the Bat Centre, as we had hoped that she would have at least had placed her hand on it.”

Her manager Neil Comfort, who is also the co-owner of the Rainbow Restaurant and Jazz Club in Pinetown, said Mhlongo was a wonderful human being who will be remembered as one of the great singers of our time.

Her friend, brother and colleague, Madala Kunene, said her death was a huge loss to him, as they grew up together.

“I am surrounded by a dark cloud as I have lost a sister. I will remember and treasure everything about her. She was an entertainer who was jocular at the same time.”

Sapa yesterday reported that President Jacob Zuma also paid homage to Busi Mhlongo, calling her the “Queen of Maskandi music”.

“She inspired the nation and let the world know of South Africa’s quest for freedom,” Zuma said in a statement yesterday.

Calling her a “true legend“, he extended his condolences to her family and friends.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also expressed its sadness, saying that she made a unique contribution to the development of music and culture, and paid tribute in her music to workers’ struggles.

National spokesperson of Cosatu, Patrick Craven said: “Her song Umentyisi condemned the violence inflicted on our people by their colonial masters. She fused traditional Zulu music with modern styles and promoted South African music to a worldwide audience.”

KZN Arts and Culture MEC Weziwe Thusi said they visited Mhlongo a few weeks ago and “hoped and prayed” she would pull through.

“I am really sad, but she is in a better place now,” said Thusi.

“Mhlongo will be remembered for her historic contribution to music in South Africa and abroad. Her sharing the stage with international greats, including Hugh Masekela, Dorothy Masuka, Salif Keita, Manu Dibango and many others, speak to her own greatness,” Thusi said in a statement.

Thusi continued that young ar­tists like Thandiswa Mazwai, Simphiwe Dana and Camagwini all credit Mhlongo for inspiring them to be true to themselves as artists and young women.

In 2000, Mhlongo received three awards at the FNB South African Music Awards for Best Female Ar­tist, Best Adult Contemporary Album (Africa), and Best African Pop Album. She has since also received a Kora award.

The first South African music benefit concert was held by the SABC to celebrate Mhlongo’s birthday and raise funds for her hospital bills after she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2006.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.

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