Ndebele music loses rare gem

Sipho Masombuka

The untimely death of prolific Ndebele folk singer and internationally renowned guitarist William Mahlangu, aka Joriyo, has shocked the traditional music fraternity and left fellow musicians dumbfounded with sorrow.

Family spokesman Johannes Mahlangu said that the 48-year-old multi-talented artist complained of severe heartburn on Monday afternoon and was admitted to Philadelphia Hospital in Dennilton, Mpumalanga.

"This severe heartburn started troubling his health in February, but it was treated with medication. On Monday the condition deteriorated and he consulted his doctor, who then referred him to hospital.

"We received the bad news at 2am the next day," Mahlangu said.

His producer and queen of Ndebele music, Nothembi Mkhwebane, said she was struggling to come to terms with his death because he had never complained about his health.

"I could not believe what I was hearing and I called his wife to confirm the bad news.

"I have lost a friend, a son and a best-selling artist in my stable. The last time I saw him was on March 28 when we performed in Mpumalanga. Talented and courageous Ndebele traditional musicians like Joriyo are rare so we have lost a traditional music pioneer and one of the most prolific artists ever.

"As his producer and someone who developed his career, his death has left a gap that no one can fill," said Mkhwebane, who has worked with Joriyo for more than 15 years.