Originally from Inanda in Natal, South Africa, Busi Mhlongo was a brilliant singer, dancer and composer whose music defies categorisation. Drawing on various South African styles such as mbaqanga, maskanda, marabi and traditional Zulu music, it is fused at various times with contemporary elements from jazz, funk, rock, gospel, rap, opera, reggae and West African sounds in a fresh and exciting mix. The infectious music has a universal appeal and so did Busi’s singing style & stage presence. Her lyrics are sung in Zulu and English and carry a strong message.
The versatile Busi has travelled the globe, working with internationally renowned artists in musicals, jazz & roots albums and performances. Produced by Will Mowat, her debut album for M.E.L.T 2000, ‘URBANZULU'(BW2118) was released 5th February 1999.
Her own story began in Inanda, in the mountains of Kwazulu Natal. Born into a musical family, she was given a small drum and two sticks and encouraged to sing at weddings, in church choirs and at school. She left school to pursue a musical career in Jo’burg and became a member of African Jazz. She then found herself living in Portugal via Mozambique and Angola with the group Conjunto Juan Paulo. She watched audiences applaud songs sung in Angolan languages as well as Portuguese and was invited to sing her own songs. “In South Africa we had to sing in English to get jobs. I began to realise that music truly has no border, no language?
Busi first visited London in the 1970’s and recorded with South African exiles Dudu Pukwana, Julian Bahula and Lucky Ranku as well as Osibisa. Later she played lead in a Canadian stage production of ‘Reefer Gladness?’ She spent the 1980’s between Holland and South Africa with her newly formed Twasa band and she played with Winston Mankunku Ngozi to packed houses at the Blue Note in Durban. Backed by Gambian group Ifang Bondi, she was the highlight of the African Roots Festival in Amsterdam and was billed alongside Salif Keita and Manu Dibango at the African Music Festival in Delft in 1989. In 1993, Busi made her first solo album, ‘Babemu’ with Dutch label Munich, before returning to Durban to run workshops in Zulu singing and dancing.
Busi has been associated with the M.E.L.T 2000 label since 1995. She appeared with Sipho Gumede at the Grahamstown Arts Festival and with Madala Kunene and other at M.E.L.T 2000’s Outernational Meltdown concert in London’s Africa Centre. She guests on Sipho’s album ‘Ubuntu – Humanity'(BW084), Madala’s ‘Kon’ko Man'(BW058) and Max Laesser’s second studio album “Between’ After appearing alongside Hugh Masekela at the Africa 95 Gala concert in London, she went on tour in Europe.
Cooking away alongside this busy schedule was her own new project ‘URBANZULU’ Busi was on tour in the UK promoting ‘Babemu’ when Will Mowat (known for his work with Soul to Soul, Daude and Angelique Kidjo) was bowled over by her set, introduced himself and asked to produce her next album, which was recorded in Durban, Johannesburg, Paris and at the M.E.L.T 2000 recording studios in Sussex, England. URBANZULU was co-written with Mkhalelwa ‘Spector’ Ngwazi and Thembi ‘Ntshebe’ Ngcobo and features South African musicians Umfazi Omnyama and Mphendukelwa Mkhize as well as Themba and Spector. Drummer, Brice Wassy, from Cameroon was flown to S.A to lay down rhythm tracks. Next into the soup went bass contribution from Paris based musicians Hilaire Penda and Noel Ekwabi, then Senegalese percussion courtesy of Sydney Thiam, Jack Djeyim and Kora from Moussa Kanoute. Throughout, the voice of Busi and her Zulu backing singers ensured the distinctive flavour – Maskanda.