Johannesburg - A sombre, but celebratory mood filled the Ellis Park arena on Wednesday afternoon, as more than 1 000 people gathered to remember kwaito legend Mduduzi "Mandoza" Tshabalala.
Many who took to the stage to remember their favourite moments with the musician spoke of a man who was down to earth and who had a great love for his family.
His wife Mpho and their three children - Karabo, Tokollo and Tumelo - sat in the front row, with Mpho tearing up every now and then. She also had an occasional laugh as speakers shared funny moments they'd had with her late husband.
Mandoza's close friend Thabiso Mosia told those gathered that he had befriended the artist when he was still new in Johannesburg. He said if it had not been for Mandoza's big heart and compassion, he may not have had a reason to stay in the city and hustle to find a job.
"When I first arrived, I didn't have a place to stay and he took me in and said I would stay with him and Mpho. When I asked him if Mpho would be okay with it, he said 'I'm Mandoza, she has to'."
Mosia said it was that bond which helped him establish a home in the city and he ultimately managed to achieve his goals. Mosia is currently a sports presenter at Power FM.
Ministers, musicians, sports figures in attendance
He described his friend as a spiritual man who was constantly in prayer.
Among those who attended the memorial were Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, and Gauteng Arts and Culture MEC Faith Mazibuko.
Also present were members of the entertainment industry and sporting figures.
Among Mandoza's family members were his in-laws who had come to support Mpho.
Mpho's aunt Thandi Nkutha jokingly told mourners that, when the family first learned that she was dating the kwaito star, they would call him by his stage name.
"She would always correct us and say ke Mduduzi, rakgadi (he is Mduduzi, aunty)," she laughed.
Praise for Mpho
Nkutha said, although many did not know much about Mpho, she was a strong woman who did not like saying much.
"I know you are brave, you are strong. I know you will keep your home and your family together," she said.
Mandoza's uncle Ngisi Tshabalala said the 38-year-old kwaito star was born and raised in Zola in a spiritual home with a solid musical and religious foundation.
Two men who worked with Mandoza during his musical career, Vusi Leeu and Gabi le Roux, took to the stage to describe the him in his professional life.
Leeu, who helped launch Mandoza's solo career, told the crowd that Mandoza had come from a place known only for its criminal activities.
"He proved that no matter where you come from, a rose can grow from concrete."
SA urged to support local music
Le Roux, who produced the beats behind the hit song Nkalakatha, said creating the popular track was a result of "divine intervention".
Le Roux and Mandoza were in Cape Town at the time and were working on a new hit, with pressure coming from the record company.
Mandoza was sitting outside on the balcony writing lyrics and came running into the room when he heard the beat Le Roux was working on. The song was finished in one take and the rest was history, Le Roux told the crowd.
"The creator and the ancestors must have had something to do with it, because it was so easy. I want to thank him for that and for being my brother."
A number of musicians and industry leaders pleaded with the South African public to support the 90% local music policy implemented by the SABC at its radio stations. They also urged the public to buy local music.
Mpho had been with Mandoza since 1999. She was praised for her strength and resilience throughout the years.
"She was a pillar, she was his strength. She is the epitome of what imbokodo (strong woman) is," said close family friend Gugu Nyandeni.