Durban Living Legend – Madala Kunene

Madala Kunene was born in Cato Manor, Durban in 1951. He is Record producer, Musician, Singer, Guitarist commonly referred as the King of Zulu guitar. He began his musical career at the age of seven. Making his first guitar out of a cooking oil tin and fish gut for strings, he soon became a popular performer in the townships.

He went professional in the 70’s, and in the 90’s teamed up with the dance group Woza Africa where he wrote, sang and played guitar. Kunene is an artist who is constantly shifting between musical habitats. He has no interest in genre specifications and prescriptions. Instead, his brand of blues operates in an opaque space where cool jazz, maskandi, mbaqanga, and a myriad of East Coast blues intersect.

Madala Kunene
Madala Kunene

In 1993 B&W (later Melt 2000) gave him his recording break and he performed on Freedom Countdown (BW059) produced by the late Sipho Gumede and has subsequently become an invaluable member of a great many Melt projects.

Madala’s guitar playing blends Blues and African Folk, and is soulfully mixed with the transcendental quality of his healing voice. His music is deeply spiritual, derived from ancient divination music he goes into trance whilst performing.

In 2015, Kunene released 1959. The album explores dense and often melancholic subject matter, especially Kunene’s own history as a victim of forced removal. In 2020, he released The Bootleg Tapes with Mabi Gabriel Thobejane.

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