Those who have spent their lives gifting us with the fruit of their talent deserve our thanks while they are still live, writes Phumlani S Langa
Internationally acclaimed musician and luminary of Xhosa culture Latozi Mpahleni, popularly known as Madosini, is being honoured by an artist who is young enough to be her granddaughter.
The idea to build a new home for the legend was hatched by alternative music label Rootspring Music.
Now singer and songwriter Msaki is using her label, AltBlk, to aid its course.
Msaki has always found the elder woman’s work inspirational and wants nothing more than for her to have a dignified home.
The younger woman has also used the power of her independent record label to repackage and re-release Madosini’s classic debut offering Power to Women, a momentous piece of work initially put out in 1997. The album was re-released on March 23.
#Trending spoke to both artists about the endeavour and the steps that could be taken to honour our musical legends while they are still with us to ensure that they enjoy a quality of life worthy of a respected custodian of local art.
Madosini – known for her skills using the uhadi and mhrubhe musical bows, as well as isitolotolo (harp) – spoke to us between a routine check-up that turned into an overnight stay in hospital visit.
She is back at home and everything seems to be alright. She is living with a heart condition that her publicists say is manageable.
Touching on this initiative that will see her home life upgraded, Madosini said: “I’m very grateful for the assistance from these young and vibrant artists. All this work emphasises my intention of passing on a creative legacy to younger generations. When I started out and with little education, the only thing I wanted to do was to share my talent. They have a new approach to things and want to explore all the best ways possible to get my work out there.”
Msaki tells us how she came to be involved.
“A love for Madosini and serendipitous opportunities to work with her over the years have given me a little insight about her life, her challenges and her family. I met people who care for her too, and we have been gathered by Rootspring Music, which is handling this fundraising campaign.”
She sees herself as the group’s emissary who is on a mission to provide a home for Madosini in Libode, Eastern Cape.
Madosini currently shares an apartment with her daughter and grandkids in Cape Town. That isn’t exactly how you’d expect a person with an honorary doctorate to live.
Architects have offered their skills to turn part of the rondavel-styled new homestead into a museum of Madosini’s life.
For Msaki, reaching the funding goal of R1.1 million would mean that Madosini would have a dignified home to live in on her ancestral land.
About the new Power to Women, Madosini excitedly explained: “The music needs to be accessible to everyone – the young, the old; all different kinds of people. Even though it might not reach everybody, I’m still grateful for the ears that my music will reach – no matter the number.”
Regarding our legends being treated in a fitting way and financially protected, the wise 99-year-old shrugged off any notion of being overlooked by a public she has gifted her talents to.
“I’m a very simple person. Listening and sharing my music is all the celebration I ever wanted. I’ve been all over, singing for masses who do not even understand isiXhosa, and that to me is celebration.”
This national treasure looked back on her career, recalling her humble beginnings.
“I had little education and all I wanted to do was sing, dance and play my instruments whenever and wherever. I had little knowledge about legally owning my music. I’m happy that I have more rights to my music now. It’s something I can leave for my grandchildren.”
Msaki has ensured that, with the re-release of Madosini’s debut album, all rights to the masters go straight to her.
“Many of our elders started out their careers when exploitative contracts between labels and artists were the norm. So many of them have not been able to adequately build throughout their careers. We can try to assist them to renegotiate their affairs so that their estates can accumulate in a way that makes sense for their families,” Msaki said.
Msaki says AltBlk is less of a stable or record label and more a music stokvel; a future creative cooperative.
“Our main job is to support so that people maintain their independence, but can still have people help them think through, feel through or plan through some elements of creating and sharing. I have been an independent artist since I began in 2013, and I know how a bit of support could have made things less stressful and allowed the music to exist under less strain.”
She says they will be releasing collaboration projects with more artists, focused on expanding the African voice.