By Charles Molele
The trip has ended: Mandoza is dead, at 38.
The death of Mdududzi Tshabalala, affectionately known as Mandoza, marks the end of an era—for the genre of Kwaito and… its psychedelic Kwaitizens, in crumpled Sdoris (township sun hats), Dickies slacks and Converse sneakers.
Mandoza was by some distance the most gifted cross-over kwaito performers to have come out of South Africa in the last 20 years.
After a brief career with kwaito outfit Chiskop, Mandoza went solo in 1999 and released 9 II 5 Zola South, which earned him the 2000 FNB South African Music Award nomination as Best Newcomer.
In 2000, shortly after the inconsequential Y2K hype, Mandoza released another solo album – the eponymously titled, Nkalakatha, produced by well-known producer Gabi Le Roux.
The day Nkalakatha was released and was played on the radio, the phones lit up like so many stars in the milky way.
Black and white radio callers called and asked DJs for shout-outs to the larger-than-life artist – That’s how potent and lethal Nkalakatha was.
It’s a sizzling, dazzling song, and deserves a place as one of his major composition.
Whether you are discovering the song or rediscovering it for the first time, you will be stunned just how great it is; the bass guitar riffs, warts and all.
Unequivocally, Nkalakatha remains his deepest and most enduring achievement.
It was really good, perhaps better than any kwaito song ever; only because each time it is played,it hits you like a powerful blow to the nape of the neck.
In kwaito circles, Mandoza’s music repertoire and his entire body of work will be celebrated for many years to come.
For future scholars of arts history, visual arts and musicology, Mandoza is the perfect dissertation for research focus areas as diverse as Africanist musicology, phenomenology, historical musicology, semiotics, music cognition and perception.
His personal life, like others before him, was not perfect.
With great success came the exploitation, the lecherous groupies and the unscrupulous promoters.
Weakened by criticism and personal demons, he stopped performing, disappeared from the music scene, only to be treated as a butt of lame jokes for his English mispronunciations.
I shall leave his personal battles with alcohol and fame to the obits, showbiz writers and the art critics.
The last time South Africa had a last glimpse of Mandoza was last weekend at the SABC Thank You Concert, held at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
It was his first public appearance following a brain tumor diagnosis.
At the Orlando Stadium, he thanked his supporters, and made an effort to holler at the top of his voice, but all that came out was a whisper, or a sigh.
It was heartbreaking to watch him.
This weekend doctors admitted him to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, but he never left to tell the story.
What a tragic end.
38 is not an age for our children to die.
But who are we to argue with GOD, the Chief Commander of the Universe?
Rest in Peace: Mduduzi Tshabalala, mfana wase Zola.