KUNENE’S STRING OF SUCCESSES
By: Nana Zuke
Born Mzwakhe Kunene (1951) in Cator Manor, Madala as he is known, is one of the few African sons doing it big for himself abroad and locally. With names such as King of the Zulu Guitar and King of the Zulu blues, he is in a league of his own.
Kunene, who started playing at the age of seven, says he never thought he would really get into music let alone achieve so much. His very first guitar was made of tin, wood and strings.
The close relationship he had with his father helped shape the kind of person, father and musician he is today.
His family were victims of the 1959 Mkhumbane evictions, an incident that scarred him permanently. He refused to let those challenges define him.
After that ordeal he started taking his music seriously, going to the city and just randomly playing. The white residents would throw money at him. The ultimate fulfilment came from seeing how people of different colour appreciated good music.
In May last year, Madala played in Los Angeles at Mazisi Kunene’s commemoration. He was also Madiba’s choice for guitarist at his inauguration.
Though Kunene also makes local appearances at the rainbow restaurant, he says that the support abroad is much greater than here at home.
“I have a show soon at the playhouse but three weeks after that I am off to New York and then Hong Kong,” said Kunene.
He recently played at the Mazisi Kunene Museum for tourists and local travelers. Madala gently caressed the strings while Sukumubuse, Mazisi’s son, read an abstract from his father’s book.
“I learn so much from this man everyday as an artist. He has both wisdom and talent. I work with him a lot- it’s great having a father figure in the industry,” Sthembiso Hlela said.