The curtain falls on Busi Mhlongo

TRIBUTES poured in yesterday for late maskandi and world-renowned music icon Busi Mhlongo, who died at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban on Tuesday.

TRIBUTES poured in yesterday for late maskandi and world-renowned music icon Busi Mhlongo, who died at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban on Tuesday.

President Jacob Zuma, Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana, cultural activists, fans and fellow musicians were all united in acknowledging Mhlongo's imposing stature on the local and international music scene.

"I have learnt with sadness of the passing of music icon Busi Mhlongo. Mama Mhlongo succumbed in her brave battle against cancer," Zuma said.

"She transformed the maskandi guitar of migrant Zulu mine workers into an instrument of peace," Zuma said.

"Her music carried poignant messages of South Africa's struggle for freedom and justice. She ensured her compositions defied categorisation and emphasised the universality of the human race.

"Her love for music kept the flames of hope alive during our country's struggle for democracy. Her music encouraged and influenced a range of contemporary South African artists.

"She inspired the nation and let the world know of South Africa's quest for freedom. A true legend has passed away."

Said Xingwana: "She was one of our brilliant artists, who contributed to the development of arts and culture in the country in general and the music sector in particular. At the Department of Arts and Culture we pass our condolences to the family."

Arts and culture writer Dudley Moloi said: "Her music was unique in that it could immediately lift one's spirit," .

"When I heard the news on Tuesday I was devastated because her music touched a lot of people. I have personally been touched by her album Amakholwa, The Believers, an album I want to share with other people," artist manager Mojalefa Gwangwa said.

"An exiled artist for more than 30 years, Busi Mhlongo was the closest link Europe had to the soul of African heritage, culture and history through her music," writer Sandile Memela said.

Famed guitarist Lawrence Matshiza, who arranged music on her album Amakholwa,The Believers said: "This is painful and is a great loss, especially to me because we had other plans to work together. When I visited her recently, her illness was more painful than the death now."

Mzwakhe Mbuli was his usual poetic and philosophical self.

"Life has its own contradictions. While others are celebrating soccer, many are mourning.

"While I accepted that she was eventually going to succumb to cancer, the time is wrong, even though one accepts that death is untimely.

"After the death of Miriam Makeba I thought, well, at least we still have Busi Mhlongo, and now this. The void she has left will not be filled by anyone. She is irreplaceable," Mbuli said.

Radio personality Shado Twala said: "We must all honour her for putting South African music, particularly maskandi, on the world map. She travelled the world and her music never changed."

KwaZulu-Natal arts and culture MEC Weziwe Thusi pledged that the provincial government "would support the family".

Speaking at her family home in Ntuzuma, Thusi said: "We want to say thank you to the family for looking after Busi in her last days, We could see that she was well taken care of."

The songbird would have been 63 in October. She is survived by her daughter Mpume, three grandchildren and four siblings.

Funeral arrangements and memorial services have not yet been finalised.