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Nkalakatha’s popularity rises thanks to Boks, biopic

Mandoza’s widow proud song still a hit 23 years later

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Late Kwaito star Mandoza performing on stage.
Late Kwaito star Mandoza performing on stage.
Image: MLandeli Puzui

Mandoza’s 2000 hit, Nkalakatha has undoubtedly become the 16th inconspicuous player to have carried the Springboks to the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

Actually, Nkalakatha is the unofficial anthem for the Boks.

From pubs, watch-parties to the stadium in Paris, the spirit and legacy of the late kwaito legend has been prevalent with every victory. After all, we need a throbbing tune to calm our nerves because the two last triumphs almost took us out – resulting with us suffering from heart palpitations for days – and medical aid does not come cheap.

The 23-year-old song has seen a resurgence that has even garnered the attention of global streaming service Spotify. Aside from the rugby, the latest BET Africa biopic, Nkalakatha: The Life of Mandoza, dramatising the life of the hit-maker has pushed the popularity of the song.

Leading to the final, many local supporters have started a social media trend foreshadowing their reaction as they hear Nkalakatha play when the Springboks defeat the All Blacks tomorrow. No, we are not being premature, it’s written in the stars and Mandoza is watching over our boys.

Mandoza's widow Mpho Tshabalala.
Mandoza's widow Mpho Tshabalala.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Almost a decade after his death, Mandoza’s widow, Mpho Tshabalala, says she wishes he were still alive to witness the spirit of unity and patriotism the song has brought to Mzansi.

“I have mixed feelings about how popular this song is during this time. I find myself asking, ‘Why isn’t Mduduzi [Mandoza’s real name] around to witness how loved his song is?’ I don’t even think he knew what his song has now become,” Tshabalala told Sowetan this week.

“He was just doing what he loves, which was making music and he made a song that’s been played in France – 23 years later after its release."

“Someone even told me that Mandoza was just an inch away from ending apartheid with this song,” she laughed.

Tshabalala further commended the song for crossing racial barriers. She plans to relaunch Mandoza’s foundation at the beginning of next year in memory of his love for music by conducting music workshops in various schools in Soweto. 

“When this song plays, it’s like all our eyes are shut and we’re just moving in one beat without judgment. This is why I’m so proud of what Mduduzi has done and the lasting legacy he’s left behind.

“This reception has made me want to support my son, Tumelo, who recently released his EP and is following in his father’s footsteps. I was against him being in the music industry at first, but I soon realised how much love and passion he had for his craft, hence I’ve now chosen to support him.” 

In a report by Spotify last month, the platform registered a spike in Mandoza’s catalogue, especially Nkalakatha, from August when his biopic debuted. His listenership was dominated by 35- to 44-year-olds followed by 30- to 34-year-olds. Gen Z also showed an interest, placing in the top five. In SA, the top listeners are from Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town. Gaborone in Botswana and Auckland in New Zealand are the two cities with Mandoza listeners outside SA.

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