umanji mourned

Edward Tsumele and Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Edward Tsumele and Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Musicians, friends, fans and colleagues yesterday paid tribute to Afro-pop musician Umanji, who died on Tuesday from an Aids- related ailment.

The musician, whose real name is Maruti Johannes Nkuna, eventually succumbed to the disease at Zebediela Hospital in Limpopo.

"I am one of the few people who comes from the same neighbourhood as Umanji. He was a very talented guy musically," said Umanji's homeboy and fan, Tsietsi Collins Chuene.

Musician and chairman of African Musicians against HIV-Aids (Amaha), Doc Shebeleza described Umanji as a brave artist.

"We really need people like Umanji who are not ashamed to disclose their status. This will go a long way to highlighting the danger of the pandemic," Shebeleza told Sowetan yesterday.

Poet Mzwakhe Mbuli was still trying to come to terms with Umanji's death when Sowetan contacted him yesterday.

"I got his SMS last Thursday, and I can tell you that he was a very bitter man. He died a pauper," Mbuli said.

"He complained that he had been neglected by people who were close to him. We spoke on Saturday and he kept on reminding me that Aids is killing the nation and that we should do something to protect ourselves.

"I urge all music enthusiasts to go out there and buy his original music because that will help his family put food on the table.

"It has not been a good start to the new year because we also lost Stompie Mavi, Mjeremane and Zombo this year."

Arthur Mafokate, "king of kwaito" and 999 boss, said the time was opportune for artists and other people to be tested and to know their HIV-Aids status.

Sexy singer Chomee said the death of Umanji had robbed the industry of a talented musician.

"He left an indelible mark on the industry and we will miss him," she said.

One of the late singer's admirers, Poloto Seopela, said the music industry would never be the same.

Cultural activist, writer and music producer Sifiso Ntuli, who first gave Umanji an opportunity to record at BMG in the 1990s when he was an executive there, had this to say: "I knew from the time I first met him that he was a genius, but like many great minds, Umanji needed serious baby-sitting because I regarded him, just like the late Moses Molelekwa, as a tortured soul.

"This is not surprising. If you look at a successful industry like Hollywood, we would not have it if it were not populated by tortured souls, just like Umanji was in this country."

Veteran musician Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse said: "What a loss, what a pain to lose such a beautiful voice. His voice was up there with the best on the continent - in the same league as Oliver Mtukudzi and Salif Keita."