Artistic light is off forever

Gugu Sibiya

Death has robbed the entertainment industry of one of the most diligent and tenacious musicians, Penuel Xoli Kunene.

Kunene, 44, was one of those artistic shining lights dating back to the 1980s era. Quiet yet forever jovial, the drummer and lead singer died after a short illness at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital last Friday.

Kunene's producer Melvin Khumalo said: "It is such a shock. Penuel has been sick for a long time but he was walking and talking, it seemed under control.

"I was shocked when his wife Ivory Sikepe called the following day with the disturbing news that Penuel had gone missing at the hospital. Like me, she had last spoken to him on Thursday night and confirmed that he had sounded okay."

What followed was a frantic search for the artist. The nurses kept on shifting the blame, denying any knowledge of Kunene's whereabouts.

He was found dead in a toilet at 10pm. Another patient said he last saw Kunene on Friday at 3am when he was going to the toilet.

A talented drummer and vocalist, Kunene made a name for himself in the 1980s as a member of the popular Splash. They blew the joints with their mega hit track Peacock.

Together with Dan Tshanda, the duo was known as Matshikos. After amassing a huge fan base at home and around Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, Kunene went solo.

He produced BY4, an all-female group led by his wife.

On the Monday before he was admitted to the hospital, they had just dropped BY4's latest CD, Molweni.

Kunene was the brains behind the late Umanji's sizzling albums - Moloi Indlala and Byala.

Sobbing uncontrollably, Sikepe who was the love of Kunene's life for the past 15 years, said: "Xoli was initially admitted for his lungs to be operated on.

"Xoli died of a heart attack. When I kissed him goodbye on Thursday night, I had no inkling that I was seeing him alive for the last time."

Kunene seemed to know he was facing his last days because on the Monday before he was admitted to hospital, he told his producer to hurry with the release of their album otherwise he would be playing it at his "after tears" party.

He leaves behind his wife and four children, mother, two brothers and a sister.

He will be buried tomorrow at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto at 11.30am. The service begins at the Lutheran Church at 8am.