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Kunene, Madala (Bafo) (South Africa)  
Madala Kunene © S.Gordon /

BORN in Cato Manor, Durban in 1951, Madala Kunene and his family were forced to move to the township of KwaMashu when the community of Cato Manor were driven out and their homes demolished as the Apartheid government enforced the notorious Group Areas Act.

While still at school, Madala started busking for pennies, using a self-made guitar, until he got his hands on a real guitar at age 12. Madala shared the experience that many young musicians had, with parents understandably wary as to the prospects of a career in music, and insisting that he focus on his studies. Nevertheless, he learned from musicians such as Sandile Shange, and soon moved beyond playing cover versions of international hits, developing his own voice and style.

In the early 1972, Madala Kunene followed the path of many aspiring artists, and headed to Joburg while in his early twenty’s. However, he soon returned home, preferring to be among his family and musical community.

guitar (acoustic / semi-acoustic), vocals
Genre: African, folk, afropop
Based in Durban, Madala regularly collaborated with musicians including singer Busi Mhlongo, bassist and bandleader Sipho Gumede and saxophonist Mandla Masuka, and in 1990 featured in the cast of the musical Woza Afrika! He recorded his debut album – simply titled “Madala” in 1988. The album was produced by Sipho Gumede, and assisted by David Marks for TUSK music.

Always true to an indigenous and African root, Madala forged a style “Madalaline”, incorporating tribal musical roots, and with what may be described as a folk/blues influence. What is key, is that he rejected being pigeon-holed as simply a Zulu traditionalist, preferring a more inclusive musical vocabulary.

In 1993, he recorded the album Kon’ko Man for MELT2000, the pioneering label initiated by Robert Trunz of B&W. The album, as well as his association with other MELT2000 artists such as Brazil’s Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, , South Africa’s Busi Mhlongo, and Switzerland’s Max Lasser, increased his profile at home and abroad.

Notable among the many acclaimed collaborations which resulted, was his work with other guitarists, including several collaborations with Swiss guitarist Max Lässer, with Baba Mokoena, Syd Kitchen, Steve Newman, Tony Cox, Guy Buttery, Nibs van der Spuy, Greg Georgiades, and Ashish Joshi. He has also worked extensively with percussionist Mabi Thobejane. More recently, he has performed with the Indian Dance performance group BHAKTI, violinist Kyla Rose Smith, flautist Vivien Simchowitz, and Olombelo Ricky from Madagascar during the 2014 educational project FOREST JAM in Switzerland.

Madala Kunene © S.Gordon/
Madala and his band tour regularly, and the past three years have included profiled billings at City Hall Sessions Cape Town (2012), Fest ‘ille de France (2013), Carnegie Hall, New York (October 2014) and Bangkok (November 2014).

Madala's bookings for 2015 include a Concerts SA tour, with appearances in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. On Friday 27 and Sat 28 March, he will perform at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, spends the month of April 2015 participating in Forest Jam Madagascar, before heaidng to Reunion for the Safiko Festival on Sat 06 and Sunday 07 June 2015.

this condensed biog by Steve Gordon 2014, updated with help of Madala and Robert Trunz at Jan 2015.

Contact Details:

Making Music Productions cc has a long association with Madala Kunene, regularly assisting with booking and related enquiries. Contact MMP on +27-21-4220118

For a comprehensive biography, plus discography and video clips, visit MELT2000 website

See copyright & usage and about for further details.

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