Isaac “Mnca” Mtshali wanted Stimela back

Former drummer and co-founder of ‘Stimela’ Isaac “Bro Mnca” Mtshali
Former drummer and co-founder of ‘Stimela’ Isaac “Bro Mnca” Mtshali
Image: Bafana Mahlangu

Legendary Stimela drummer and founding member Isaac “Mnca” Mtshali was in discussion with the other remaining members of the group to revive the iconic Afro-fusion band before his death.

The 64-year-old musician died on Sunday after collapsing at home in Thokoza, on the East Rand.

Mtshali founded Stimela alongside the late Ray Phiri, Jabu Sibumbe and Lloyd Lelosa.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, bass player Sibumbe said he was shocked about Mtshali’s sudden death as they were just plotting Stimela’s comeback on Saturday. “We were talking about repositioning, rebranding and redirecting ourselves. In every dialogue he would involve you and ask some pressing questions,” Sibumbe said.

“I will remember him as my brother, band member and colleague. He was always in my thoughts every day. Every day spent with him was special.

“We wanted to reintroduce a sound that spoke to the current state of the country.

“You listen to radio today and there is nothing that talks about the current regime. That is hurtful because we worked so hard for this country to keep the fire burning.”

Sibumbe met Mtshali and the other members of Stimela – including Phiri – in the late 1960s in Nelspruit, now Mbombela. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s they competed against one another as dancers.

It wasn’t until the early 1980s that they founded Stimela yielding hits such as Whispers in the Deep, Where Did We Go Wrong and Look, Listen and Decide.

“We fought apartheid. We never ran away. We kept the fire burning at home through our music, while other comrades were out there fighting,” Sibumbe said.

“We made the point to tell the story as it is and not sing the love songs they wanted us to sing. Just play our music and you will hear our contribution to this country.

“We called the band Stimela to leave a long-lasting legacy because Stimela [train] is the only thing that brings people together from all walks of life,” Sibumbe said.

Mtshali’s son Vusi said the family was saddened by his father’s death.

“The Mtshali family is deeply saddened by his passing and would like to urge those who knew and loved him to celebrate this incredible talent,” he said.

“The family will release the details of the memorial service and funeral once they have been finalised.”

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