Madala Kunene was born in 1951 in Cato Manor, Durban, South Africa. He started busking on Durban's beachfront at the age of 7, making his first guitar out of a cooking oil tin and fish gut for the strings. It was friends such as the great Sandile Shange, who encouraged him to take his guitar playing much more seriously.
In very little time he had become the hottest guitar player and was discovered by Sipho Gumede and started to share the stage with such luminaries as Doc Mthalane, Songamasu, Shor Philips, Mankunku Ngozi and Busi Mhlongo.
He established the 'Madalaine' style of guitar playing, combining blues & soul with African folk, and eveloped the trance-like quality of his Zulu folk singing. With wit and clarity he relates the traditional Zulu folk tales we would otherwise forget. Madala's first solo album for M.E.L.T. 2000 was Kon'ko Man meaning 'the Strong Man'. Made in 1995 and produced by Pops Mohamed and Airto Moreira, this supreme album features many of his old friends, including Londoner Zena Edwards, Sipho Gumede, Mabi Thobejane, Busi Mhlongo, Mandla Mgabhi and Mandla Masuku, Jose Neto and Flora Purim, to mention but a few. Following this debut solo album he collaborated with numerous artist including Swiss guitarist Max Laesser. Bafo, as he is known by his friends and fans, released a number of CDs listed herewith and remains one of the few remaining legends of true South African music.
MADALA KUNENE - 1959 (MZA1959) NEW RELEASE SOUTH AFRICA ONLY
At the age of eight, in the year 1959, Madala Kunene and some members of his extended family were trucked away by the Apartheid government to go live in the then relatively new township of KwaMashu in Durban.
“People can’t imagine what it’s like when you see bulldozers demolish your home in the middle of the night,” recalls Kunene. “The worst thing was that when they moved us, they came at night and packed my family into the back of a truck and then went to another area to pick up another family there and so on. So you were not just separated from your home, you were stripped of your friends
and neighbors in the process. It was a very calculated act.” Kunene adds. As African people, the way we know and understand our past is very influenced by music,” Kunene says. “So if I can add one layer of context that can help in understanding this period in our history, then that is great.”
The album “1959” was co-produced and engineered by Marius Botha and Neil Snyman. It started out as a simple acoustic guitar and voice project but as soon as Madala’s many friends learned that he was busy recording in his own backyard things took on a life of their own. An outpouring of love for Bafo followed with everyone wanting to bring his or her love for Bafo to this project. Madala gratefully acknowledges the many appearances of friends a.o. Lu Dlamini, Bra Hugh Masekela, Sthembiso Hlela, Max Lässer, Vishen Kemraj, Sazi Dlamini, Steve Newman, Guy Buttery, Bernard Mndaweni, Paki
Peloeole, Eric Duma, Sihlanga Zulu, Mdu Magawaza, Njeza Dlamini, Zamo Mbutho, Sipho Nxumalo & Smanga Ngubane.
LIMITED SERIESOnly 500 CDs are manufactured as a limited edition packed in a cardboard outer Digi Pack with an 8 page full description booklet inserted.
FREEDOM CONTDOWN - MADALA KUNENE, BARNEY BOPHELA, MANDLA KASUKU
Produced by Sipho Gumede in late 1993, this album was the first production for M.E.L.T. 2000 to come out of the folk or jive roots of the Zulu capital of Durban. For Madala Kunene this album became his springboard into the club scene with a remix of Ubombo by Bristol based production team Smith & Mighty released in 1995 on the epic album Music With No Name Vol. 1. All 3 artists on this album contributed each three songs.
Mandla Masuku has built his popularity in South Africa through his distinctive township Jive and brought him a wide audience aside from his collaborations with many other musicians, he is a strong front man in his own right.
Barney Bophela crosses both traditional and African Pop. on this compilation you can hear Sipho Gumede's influence with Barney playing into his own kind of American Influenced Jazz Fusion that retains a South African flavor.
MADALA KUNENE - KING OF THE ZULU GUITAR VOL. 1
Durban in the year of 1995
Those who read or watched the news in 1995 will have noticed the ongoing violent clashes between the then still-fighting factions in the Zululand. The sounds of gunfire throughout the night left one with no choice but to barricade oneself and wait for morning, when it was time to count the bodies. Those patient people who have gone through decades of apartheid and brutality have come through at the end under a president who knew more about repression than most, but is still smiling, still loving and forgiving.
There is talent everywhere and Madala Kunene is one of the people who dedicates his life to peace and to help making a difference. It was during the daytime hours in 1995 when I recorded this album live on the riverbank and at the bottom of his garden using a stereo Sony DAT recorder and a Soundfield microphone - everything battery-driven because of a lack of electricity in places like the farm in KwaZulu hinterland. Dick Jewell was kind enough to film the unique encounters of Madala with percussionist Mabi Thobejane or Busi Mhlongo rehearsing in their hotel room in Johannesburg.
MADALA KUNENE - KON'KO MAN
KON'KO MAN - STRONG MAN !
Shortly after working with Madala and Airto Moreira during the 1994 Outernational Meltdown recordings, Pops Mohamed called me early 1995 to say that the Shades choir from London was touring South Africa and that he wanted them to record some songs with Bafo Madala. A few weeks later the multi track analog tapes arrived in the UK during a recording session with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim who were so touched by the music that they asked to take the material to Santa Barbara for further production and overdubs. The track Konko Man (or Strong Man) has traveled the world andhelped establishing a global fan base for this gentle Zulu man from Durban, South Africa. The Oscar nominated and locally produced film YESTERDAY for which Madala composed the music, has cemented his reputation and his views expressed in his songs attract a lot of young South Africans in search of traditional values.
Abangoma, Sani Bonani and Igwababa feature the amazing vocals of Busi Mhlongo from the times when Madala first introduced Busi to the label owner Robert Trunz during the recording sessions in Johannesburg in 1995.
MADALA KUNENE & FRIENDS - UXOLO PEACE THE ACOUSTIC SESSIONS DVD (MZADV 007)
Live at the Bassline - Johannesburg
The initial unplugged recordings in Durban were followed by an unique gathering of friends in Joburg with an evening of live performances with Madala Kunene, Della Tamin, Umshika Shika, L.A.P. Greg Georgiades, Ashish Joshi & Bernard Mndaweni.
Around 2003 Madala Kunene, the veteran self-styled King of Zulu Guitar remarked in an interview that he was thinking of working as a full time Sangoma because music was no longer a viable profession for providing for his family.
For some reason, local traditional healers were very soon up in arms. Even some of Madala's friends felt he'd gone too far. When I learned about the seriousness of the situation, I packed my DAT machine, microphones and picked up Mabi Thobejane along the way with some of his drums and headed for Durban. Once there, we initiated a series of unplugged Uxolo (peace) recordings. Music in effect became a medium for conflict resolution.
It soon became obvious that the Durbanites needed to come to Johannesburg to play for their fans and artist friends which included young musicians from groups like L.A.P. and Kwani Experience along with a new young generation of supporters who never had the chance to see Madala playing live. However, before this could evolve further, Madala and Bernard Mndaweni had been invited to perform at a small festival at Fort West in the Pretoria area. This was at the behest of oud player and guitarist Greg Hadjiyorki Georgiades. The festival also happened to be the first time that the older musicians had shared the stage with accompaniment from the recently formed L.A.P. (an organic offshoot of Kwani Experience).
Thus when Madala and Bernard's unplugged album Uxolo was finally released and launched in June 2005 with live gigs at the Bassline it had ceased to be purely a Madala Kunene event, simply because all his musician friends wanted to join him on stage for a memorable night in Newtown.
MADALA AND MAX LAESSER - MADAMAX
Madala first met Max at Downtown Studio in Johannesburg in 1995 during the second Outernational Meltdown gatherings organized by MELT 2000 founder Robert Trunz. Great creative empathy and feeling was shared between exceptional artists for this project. Max has successfully worked before with South African artists who have added special flavours and extra dimensions to his already distinctive work. With Madala, however, what started off as "a real jam" started "becoming a new thing". They even recorded their first takes, giving the sound a crisp freshness and playful sophistication. The result - In Max Lässer's words "Unique music happened".
Madala echoes this, "We sat together the whole night. I just took the guitar and played and everybody sang along, I was not expecting that this music would be released on CD. We were just playing together. We finished the session, and since that day we have been great friends. I liked his heart - he is a fine man."
All of the songs on the album were written by both Max and Madala, words written by Madala Kunene. After their initial sessions in South Africa, Max Lässer had the creative freedom to arrange and produce the work himself and he invited Madala to Switzerland to continue adding more arrangements. They added extra keyboards and a brass section to the recordings, overdubbed 'Impukane' with bass and drums, and wrote two new songs 'Gongo' and 'Cow Song'. Lulu Plaatjies of Amampondo contributed her haunting vocals and the American lap-steel guitarist, David Lindley added his part to 'Impukane'.
Max Lässer says that meeting Madala Kunene was like finding a brother from another culture and part of the world, "He really opened my heart to African music and to a different view of playing music than I was used to. He really made me play some of my best yet." Robert Trunz has described the collaboration as an "epiphany" a "profound connection" between Europe and Africa. It was such an uplifting experience that these two talented artists decided to take their unique collaborative sound on tour in Switzerland. Lungiswa Plaatjies joined them - stunning the crowd with her beautiful rendition of 'Kumnandi'. It was an unforgettable musical experience and a resounding success. Both guitarists are unique, both have their own style and yet when playing together the result is something else, as Max says, something "primordial and confrontational."
ROBERT DOC MTHALANE, MABI THOBEJANE & MADALA KUNENE - RESPECT WITH SPECIAL GUEST BUSI MHLONGO (BW2094)
Robert 'Doc' Mthalane may not be a household name, but the South African master guitarist spent much of the 1990's both playing and writing songs for the acclaimed Zulu singer Busi Mhlongo and her group Twasa. Sadly Doc fell victim to tuberculosis and died prematurely in 1998, but not before leaving us with one last exquisite album of uplifting and heart-rending beauty. The album was recorded at Brownhill Farm Studios (UK) with Mabii Thobejane, Madala Kunene & producer Brice Wassy. From the languid opening chords of Eva, the slowly surging crescendos of Masihlanganemi to the rousing rhythmic call to action of Mamambo, this is one of those rare albums that can enrich your life and soothe your soul. (Dave Stelfox)
Dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of South Africa, Doc shone as a brilliant composer and player for many years before his untimely demise. This album, recorded 1997 alongside Busi Mhlongo, Brice Wassy, Mabi Thobehane and Madala Kunene, is simply a beautiful epitaph to the great man full of the subtlest rhythms and melodies crafted with considerable knowledge and skill. Additional overdubs in Durban and at Brownhill Farm in West Susssex (UK), mixing and mastering of this album was done over a period of 4 years and captured some rare moments of fine music making.
The last track RESPECT, by Busi Mhlongo, is a dedication, a moving tribute and a thank-you to a great South African guitar player, composer and writer. Respect and thanks for the privilege of being chosen to record your last album !
MADALA KUNENE & BABA MOKOENA SERAKOENG - FIRST DOUBLE 1 & 2 (MZA002)
First Double 1 & 2 is a special collaboration with 3 of the top Zulu string players being Madala Kunene, the late Baba Mokoena on electric guitar and Bernad Sibusiso Mndaweni on electric bass and special guest Mabi Thobejane. The album , released in 2002, was nominated for the 2003 SAMA awards
Baba Mokoena Seakoeng was one of the finest mbaqanga guitar-players and a well known collaborator with Madala Kunene.
Simon Baba Mokoena was born at Umkumbane in Durban in the late '40. He started making music at the age of 12 and Baba's first gig was with a group called Mhlathi and His Comets. After two years Baba left the group and went to Johannesburg to play mbaqanga, because he had always wanted to play African music. He played for a group called Izintombi Zamangwane. This was followed by guitar work on Gibson Kente's musicals Sikhalo and How Long.
Baba joined Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi and Khaya Mahlangu at the Pelican which gave him a chance to explore different kinds of music mbaqanga, jazz and rhythm and blues.
Mbongeni Ngema was impressed and asked Baba to join the band for his musical Township Fever, which opened at Johannesburg's Market Theatre in 1991. The show went on to tour America, opening in New York. After the Township Fever tour, Baba worked with Letta Mbuli and Caiphus Semenya in shows around South Africa. Baba returned to Mbongeni Ngema's company, touring Europe with Sarafina, Magic at 4am and Mama. Baba met and recorded with Airto Moreira and Jose Neto. In 1999, Baba teamed up with Madala Kunene to prepare the recording of a collaborative album for Melt.
Baba was a very sought-after session musician and his guitar-playing earned him a lot praise from all age groups.
MADALA KUNENE & BERNARD MNDAWENI - UXOLO (MZA 036)
Uxolo = Peace
Whilst many South African live music venues closed in the early years of the new 21st century digitally produced dance music and DJ's replaced performing musicians. The few remaining gigs paid badly and many of our finet artists went hungry and there were bad feelings and arguments among even the best of friends in Zululand. When in 2004 I heard of the trouble brewing I picked up Mabi Thobejane from Pretoria and equipped with a portable DAT recorder & a couple of microphones we headed for KZN to seek peace between the bickering factions by using music as a medium for negotiation. The album Uxolo is the result of this mission with mostly unplugged stereo recordings.
Special guest: Umshika Shika Qabe (guitar)
ACOUSTIC AFRICA - Madala Kunene, Greg Georgiades, Carlo Mombelli, Ernest Mothle,Ntombe Thongo DVD (MZADV 002)
In 2004 Jean Bourdin (director of the Alliance Francaise in Pretoria) told me of his plans for a small, intimate festival sponsored by the Alliance and the IFAS (Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud). I immediately asked him if I could make some additional program suggestions and expressed my wish to record and film the event.
Jean's musical program found form in the 2004 Fort West Village Heritage & Cultural Festival which was built around four musicians born or raised in Tshwane (Pretoria). These are Ernest Mothle, Carlo Mombelli and the two artists to whom this DVD is dedicated, Greg Hadjiyorki Georgiades and the only non Pretoria basedMadala Kunene. And yet despite their common roots, the diversity of their musical influences and inspirations is awesome. The MELT team gathered with cameras and stacks of recording gear, some of which was flown in from London with Chris Lewis - a man whose expertise with acoustic music I certainly did not wanted to miss.
Another journey and a new era of collaborations had begun.
Watch this DVD
MAX LAESSER & MADALA KUNENE - MADAMAX BAFO 2 (MZA 044)
Madamax Bafo is the second collaboration album between these two brilliant guitarists featuring Christoph Stiefel, Walter Keiser, Lungiswa Plaatjies & new on electric bass Bernard Sibusiso Mndaweni.
SYD KITCHEN & MADALA KUNENE - BAFO BAFO
After decades of friendship and informal "jamming" together at clubs and festivals, Madala Kunene and Syd Kitchen; two of South Africa's most enduring musical sons; have joined forces in the creation of BAFO BAFO.
This exciting, cross-cultural collaboration between two highly individual guitar stylists creates a musical landscape that is magical and absolutely unique. Indeed; BAFO BAFO deliver a musical tapestry that is at once a living embodiment of the magical "new" South Africa. Their ability to naturally fuse cultural elements from the diversity abundant in multiethnic South Africa sets in motion an ethos that is being echoed across Africa; the collective thought that NOW is the time for Africa, if she works together. BAFO BAFO is therefore a musical manifestation of the ethos behind the drive for Africa's renaissance. The collaboration is a creation of its time.
The musical magic of BAFO BAFO results from the synthesis of both musicians' diverse contributions. Syd Kitchen's eclectic use of musical elements that traverse everything from Celtic, Afrikaans, jazz, Cajun, Eastern and African influences is balanced and complimented by Madala Kunene's uncanny ability to develop a Maskanda groove that burrows itself into your consciousness. Kitchen plays nylon and steel string acoustic guitars, recorders, hosepipe flute, percussion and sings. Kunene plays steel string acoustic guitars, mouth bow and sings. All the music is organically co-written and sung in Zulu, English and Fanigalo (urban slang).
At a time in Africa's history when serious moves are afoot (such as the NEPAD initiative and the formation of the African Union) to liberate the continent from the shackles of a past tainted with Colonial oppression and economic marginalization, the ancestors give us BAFO BAFO and their magical 100% halaal, Afro-Saxon sonic parables of possibility. One of their songs says "manje isikhathi sesifikile" (."now is the time, and it is here"). It is BAFO BAFO's time. It is Africa's time.
MADALA KUNENE - AFRICAN CLASSICS
South African label SHEER released this excellent selection of the best songs of Madala compiled form the MELT 2000 catalog. Some copies are still available from this website.