King of the Zulu Guitar

Madala Kenene, City Hall Sessions, Cape Town, July 2012
Madala Kenene, City Hall Sessions, Cape Town, July 2012

Blessed with an uncanny ability to play the guitar, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, Madala Kunene, is undoubtedly one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most respected musicians, having played with the likes of the late Hugh Masekela and Busi Mhlongo. While Kunene dislikes the idea of labels, his sound is most often associated with mbaqanga or maskandi music, although with musicians such as Duke Ellington influencing his early life, cool jazz notes also enter the mix.

Kunene was born in 1951 in Mkhumbane (Cato Manor), and experienced the trauma of the 1959 forced removals when he was just eight years old. His music has often referenced the history of the country, and his experience of living in South Africa. In a 2015 interview with the Mail & Guardian Kunene explained how he has used his music to communicate a message:

Music is so important – it allows you to say things people don’t agree with in a way they like. It eases tensions in a way dialogue just can’t

Affectionately referred to as ‘Bafo’ (brother), Kunene had a strong relationship with fellow Durban musician, Syd Kitchen. Together the pair were referred to as Bafo Bafo. Follow the link to watch a 2011 video of Bafo Bafo performing their song Manje. The video was filmed on location in Durban’s CBD.

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