Maskandi great leaves lasting mark

MASKANDI singer and producer Simosakhe Mthalane, 44, has died.

MASKANDI singer and producer Simosakhe Mthalane, 44, has died.

Born in Durban and growing up in KwaDinda in Kranskop, Mthalane died of kidney failure at the BBH Hospital in Boksburg last week Thursday.

His name might not ring a bell for many but Mthalane was one of the few people who benefitted from the growth of maskandi music. He was the brains behind the award-winning female maskandi group Imithente.

Buselaphi Ngxowa, one of the group members, said: "Simosakhe was one of the most humble people I have known. Since meeting in 1993 we worked well together with him."

Mthalane's passion for the African traditional music sound began at the early age of eight, playing a tin guitar. Like most maskandi musicians he came to Joburg in the early 1990s looking for a job. While searching for the right channels in the music industry he did odd jobs.

When the trend of female maskandi groups was introduced in the early 1990s, Mthalane was among the few people who took up the challenge. In 1993 he founded Imithente with the help of three women singers, Ngxowa, Dumsile Manana and Nokwazi Ntuli.

In 1995 the group released their debut album, Umbulali, under Task Music. The following year he joined one of the famous maskandi producers, Tom Mkhize, who also owned Khaba Music.

Under Mkhize's company Imithente released Wafa Washonaphi and Anomkhomba Ngesithupha.

In 2000 Imithente joined Gallo Music and they released Isidikiselo. This is the album that introduced them to maskandi fans.

Since then they have recorded albums such as Awusay' ebhodweni, Ngiyakushiya Mawulele, Umnyango Ongenasikhiye, Igazi Elibabayo, Ake Niyeke Ukukhuluma, Bamb' Ezakho, and Simqonda Ngqo.

Mtekhala of Shwi Nomtekhala fame said: "I have never worked with him closely but I knew him as another skilled musician. We performed together in various shows. As someone who has listened to Imithente, he was quite talented, especially when it came to composing."

Well-known maskandi sound engineer Bazooka Gxowa echoed the sentiments of other musicians: "I met Mthalane in 1998 while I was working at Task Studios in Jeppestown. He came across as a man who knew where he wanted to take his group. He was a visionary.

"Mthalane had a special love for the African traditional music genre. He even introduced his children to it. Most of them are part of the group Imithente."

Imithente made history last year by being the first female group to win a South African Music Award in the Best Maskandi Album category. In 2007 the group's compilation got an award at the South African Traditional Music Awards.

Apart from Imithente, Mthalane produced other groups such as uSimosakhe No Shayina, Imbabazane, Zamazwe, uGobela and Boneni.

Stanley Dladla of Nonjiko Music said: "I worked with Mthalane last year while shooting his latest DVD. His death came as a shock to all of us who knew him well.

"As a country we have lost another great artist. This is the time we should call on maskandi musicians to stand up together and fight for their rights so that they do not die as paupers."

He is survived by his three wives, a fiancée, 13 children, his mother and three siblings. He will be buried on Sunday at KwaDinda. The service is expected to start at home at 8am.