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Mbuli, Mzwakhe (South Africa)  
Mzwaki Mbuli

MZWAKHE Mbuli, the Peoples Poet has spent all of his career fighting injustice and racism and promoting positive attitudes. Renowned for his outspoken commitment to freedom and justice, Mzwakhe's uncompromising lyrics are set to classic highly-charged township music which has captured the hearts of the urban and rural communities.

As a child he often went to cultural events with his father. Later he joined a group called "Khuvhangano" and performed in several productions. It was in this performing role that he began writing and performing poetry, initially at an all night vigil for the death of a comrade and following on from this one event he was repeatedly asked to perform .

Throughout the 1980s Mzwakhe was repeatedly detained by the authorities and denied a passport to travel while playing a leading role in the Cultural activities of the United Democratic Front. During this period he released two albums, Change is Pain which was banned by the authorities and later Unbroken Spirit which was written in prison.

Genre: spoken word, traditional / indigenous, mbaqanga


Mzwakhe's performing career began by reciting poetry at Union and Cultural events . Later in 1986 he began working with musicians and as a result produced his first album: CHANGE IS PAIN This album was promptly banned by the South African Authorities. "This cassette with its stirring music and dramatic presentation will have a great influence among revolutionary groups in the RSA and at mass meetings as well."

On his release from solitary confinement in 1988 he began working on a second album. Throughout his time in solitary confinement Mzwakhe created many new poems which resulted in the release of UNBROKEN SPIRIT.

Mzwakhes international career began in 1990 in Berlin when he shared the stage with Youssou N'dour, Miriam Makeba and Thomas Mapfumo. Later that year on their first visit to London a recording deal was struck with Trevor Herman at the Earthworks label. Mzwakhe also wrote and narrated a history of apartheid in South Africa for BBC Radio one which was broadcast in Spring 1991.

Resistance is Defence
The new album was released in January 1992 by the Earthworks label and tours were organised to USA and Canada in the summer including the New Music Seminar in New York and a return to Europe in the autumn of 1992 included visits to France, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland and Japan.

Following this considerable international success Mzwakhe signed a major recording deal with CCP/EMI in South Africa. This was also the beginning of a brilliant creative relationship with foremost South African producer West Nkosi until his recent and untimely death.

In 1993 AFRIKA was released followed by IZIGI in 1994. In 1994 Mzwakhe performed in front of the most extraordinary and illustrious audience ever when he was called upon to introduce Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his inauguration. One of the best known artists in South Africa Mzwakhe shows solidarity with the feelings and aspirations of the people. He is known as the voice of the voiceless, the poor and the dispossessed on the edges of society. His concerns are human rights, building a better future, remembering and reminding his audience about African history and tradition.

In 1996 Mzwakhe was invited to London to Co-compere with Benjamin Zephaniah the Two Nations Concert at the Albert Hall to honour President Mandela on his visit to London. Later in the year he returned to the UK to join Peter Gabriel, Youssour N'dour and other prominent African Artists to record the fundraising Aids Album.

On the 20th Anniversary of the June 16th Soweto Uprising a poem by Mzwakhe entitled Young People was engraved on a stone and placed in the Avalon Cemetary as a 20th anniversary memorial to the youth.

As international artists began visiting South Africa, Mzwakhe was invited to meet and perform for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bill and Camille Cosby.

During the recording of the next album Kwa-Zulu Natal. Mzwakhe's mother Roselinah Msuthukazi Mbuli died and a track on the album was dedicated to her. On release the title track Kwa-Zulu Natal caused considerable controversy despite its plea for peace.

In the autumn of 1996 an attempt was made on Mzwakhes life by four unknown gunmen, he escaped unscathed.

In 1997 he released UMzwakhe UBonga UJehovah, a gospel inspired album which was again a great success in South Africa. In July 1997 Mzwakhe made a trip to the UK to plan a new international tour which was due to take place in 1998.

However this was not to be. It is a sad irony that Mzwakhe finds himself imprisoned for bank robbery in the new South Africa. In the newspapers witnesses have made claims that they were paid to implicate him in a ridiculous series of crimes.

Mzwakhe was convicted on 29th March and subsequently sentenced to 13 years imprisonment. he also faces an additional charge, pertaining to another alleged bank robbery. An appeal has been entered against the conviction, and is scheduled to be heard in May 2000. Meanwhile, Mzwakhe released a new album with EMI entitled - Born Free but always in Chains - featuring some new material together with previously released material.


CHANGE IS PAIN - Shifty Records 1986
UNBROKEN SPIRIT - Shifty Records 1988
AFRIKA - CCP/EMI South Africa 1993
IZIGI - CCP / Emi South Africa 1994
KWA - ZULU NATAL - CCP / EMI South Africa 1996


BEFORE DAWN - Cosaw Publishers 1988.


PEOPLES POET - 1989 30 Mins. Documentary about Mzwakhe.
SONGOLOLO - Dir:Marian Kaplan Canada.1990. Film about Mzwakhe and Writer Gcina Mhlophe.

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