Final curtain for urban Zulu

2010-06-27 10:35

South Africa’s music fraternity bade a fitting farewell to one of

its own, queen of urban traditional music Busi Mhlongo at the Durban Exhibition

Centre yesterday.

Ladies came resplendent in full traditional regalia in honour of

Mhlongo’s preferred stage gear.

Among them were 80s pop queen Mercy Phakela and Mhlongo’s band


Emotions ran high halfway through the service as the band took to

the stage to sing Mhlongo’s songs.

Among those delivering the last song was Thandiswa ­Mazwai,

Mhlongo’s spiritual daughter.

After two memorial services – one in Johannesburg on Wednesday and

the other at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban on Thursday – there was a ­feeling

of déjà vu as Felicia Mabuza-Suttle took to the podium once again.

Once more, she told mourners – while name-dropping – about how she

and some bigwigs had paid for Mhlongo’s daughter, Nompumelelo Black, who stays

in the US with her three kids, to get to the funeral.

“I’m a mother to Mpume ­because I brought her up from the age of

three,” said Mabuza-Suttle.

Mhlongo was married to Mabuza-Suttle’s uncle, drummer Eli Mabuza,

who died in his sleep after suffering a seizure while Mhlongo was still in exile

during the apartheid years.

While Mhlongo’s final stage appearance was not an overtly glamorous

affair, familiar faces in the packed hall included ­police boss Bheki Cele, ANC

bigwig Baleka Mbete and Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana.

Mhlongo’s grandchildren – some of whom were with her at Durban’s

Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital when she passed away on June 15 – paid tribute to

the her in a moving poetry session.

“She was in pain, but now our Khuluza is in peace,” said one.

Notably absent was Mhlongo’s flamboyant nephew Somizi and his

actress mother Mary Twala.

The late musician was lauded for putting SA traditional music on

the map and for her rebellious streak which saw her breaking boundaries in the

male-dominated music genre.

Mhlongo was buried in a private ceremony in Musgrave. She leaves

behind her daughter Nompumelelo and three grandchildren – Zoe, Suraya and


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