Madala Kunene Collaborations spanning 5 decades

Dr. Madala Kunene & Guy Buttery - Unearthing New Musical Landscapes

Despite a 36 years difference between Dr. Madala Kunene and Guy Buttery, sparks fly right away when they share a stage. Madala and Guy have collaborated for years but a recent artist residency and subsequent concerts have taken this collaboration to new heights.

“Guy Buttery is something of a National treasure”, says South Africa’s leading newspaper. As an internationally recognised musician, this multi-instrumentalist enjoys invitations to play sell-out performances all over the globe. The USA, UK, Australia, France, Brazil, India and Italy have all welcomed him back year after year. Guy’s distinct unification of South African guitar music is the musical advocate for everything positive and beautiful about the place he calls home. In 2018, Guy received the highest accolade for a musician in South Africa and was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. In almost 4 decades of honouring artist throughout the country, this was the first time since its inception that the award was presented to a musician outside of the classical realm.

Together Madala and Guy unearth new musical landscapes taking cyclical Zulu guitar patterns to the East and back again in a psychedelic layering of textures, deeply rooted in KwaZulu-Natal. Expect high dynamics, deep grooves, delicate African inflections and mind-bending string playing of an entirely new order.

Madala Kunene's 1959:
A Harmonious Fusion of Friendship and Music in a Time of Artistic Drought

1959 must be categorised as an essential collaboration in a time of no work for artists like Madala. It started as an acoustic guitar and voice project. Soon, Madala’s many friends learned that he was busy recording in his backyard, and things took on their own life. An outpouring of love for Madala followed, with everyone wanting to bring his or her love for Bafo to this project. Madala gratefully acknowledges the many appearances of friends amongst others Lu Dlamini, Bra Hugh Masekela, Sthembiso Hlela, Max Lässer, VishenKemraj, Sazi Dlamini, Steve Newman, Guy Buttery, Bernard Mndaweni, Paki Peloeole, Eric Duma, Sihlangu Zulu, Mdu Magwaza, Njeza Dlamini, Zamo Mbutho, Sipho Nxumalo & Smanga Ngubane. Engineered and co-produced by Marius Botha and Neil Snyman.

Echoes of Excellence: Themba Mokoena's Enduring Legacy in South African Music

Themba Mokoena is a veteran and one of the finest electric guitar players from the capital of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Like Madala Kunene, he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Themba is known as a backing artist, having worked with SA‘s greats such as Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, Simphiwe Dana, Gibson Kente and others. He also mentored Ray Phiri and Jimmy Dludlu.

Max Laesser, Madala Kunene & Lungiswa Plaatjies - a Lasting Musical Friendship

“Madamax” originated from an encounter between Madala Kunene & Swiss guitarist Max Laesser at Downtown Studios in Johannesburg in 1995. “Madamax Bafo,” the second recording and tour is a continuation of this partnership, exploring their respective musical roots while blending unique sounds and having fun making music. The essence of “Madamax Bafo” is the rich dialogue between Max’s typical sound ( which goes back to his work with Andreas Vollenweider),  Bafo’s trance grooves and Lungiswa’s unique voice.  Madamax Bafo presents a narrative of cultural exchange and musical evolution.  Another Swiss footprint in Madala’s rich history of Collaboration.

Mthuthu Ndebele: The Voice of Universal Spirituality and Roots Music Renaissance

South African singer and songwriter MthutMhu Ndebele has a big, authoritative voice. He is a lead singer, actor, and dancer in the Music and Drama Academy. In 2022, Mthuthu realised his longtime dream of performing more roots and folk sounds. Around that time, Madala started to feature this uniquely talented artist with his profoundly beautiful voice, stunning the audience. Mthuthu soon appeared on Nicky B’s World Show, broadcasted by Johannesburg-based KAYA 959 Radio station. His music explores universal spirituality and the connection with one’s self.

Beats Reimagined: African Tradition Fuses with Electronica

By mid-1990, ElectricMELT and other independent  labels were at the forefront of the electronica & remix scene. Whether folk, jazz or world music, many traditional musicians from Southern Africa, like Busi Mhlongo and Madala Kunene, realised early on that young producers and DJs can show respect and love with their language of electronica and remixes. Go with the BEAT.

Drums and Strings: The Harmonious Discord of Mabi Gabriel Thobejane and Madala Kunene

South Africa is a very diverse country. It is divided (geographically!) into nine provinces with eleven official languages, with Zulu and Xhosa the most widely spoken. While most South African musicians communicate in more than one ethnic language, Mabi Gabriel Thobejane was fluent in many, but the drum was his ultimate way to communicate. The King of the Zulu Guitar, Madala Kunene, and Mabi Gabriel Thobejane shared the stage for five decades, bickering about everything while simultaneously creating the most beautiful music and fierce beats.

Bafo Bafo: The Cross-Cultural Symphony of Madala Kunene and Syd Kitchen

The collaboration between Madala Kunene and Syd Kitchen, two of South Africa’s most revered musicians, culminated in creating “Bafo Bafo.” This partnership was a fusion of decades of friendship and informal jamming at clubs and festivals. Their musical alliance was a meeting of styles and a cross-cultural journey, melding Kunene’s deep roots in Zulu tradition with Kitchen’s eclectic blend of folk and jazz. The album “What Kind?” by Bafo Bafo reflects their unique synergy, offering a musical landscape that resonates with the spirit of the “new” South Africa. It is a testament to their artistry and collective vision of a culturally rich, diverse nation. 

Chico Antonio & Madala Kunene - Rock & Blues Made in Maputo​

Born in 1958 in Maputo, Chico António was part of two Mozambican bands: Grupo RM and Orquestra Marrabenta. Former president of Mozambique Armando Guebuza stated the status of Chico António on social media:

“Your music also strengthened our identity and our pride in being Mozambican”. 

Madala Kunene and Matthias Abaecherli joined Chico Antonio and Matchume Zango for some recordings in Maputo, followed by a gig in Joburg. The chemistry couldn’t be better, and In 2016, Chico and Madala went on tour with Forest Jam and the Groove Orchestra. Madala & Chico’s live recording with Forest Jam at The Orbit in Johannesburg is another fine example of collaborative mentoring. 

Greg Hadjiyorki Georgiades: Master of Strings and Ethno-Groove Fusion

Greg Hadjiyorki Georgiades is an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist. His instruments include the North African fretless lute (oud), guitar and bouzouki. Greg composes an intoxicating mix of North and South African ethno-grooves and vibrant melodies. Over the years, Greg has collaborated, performed and recorded with significant artists in the South African music scene, perhaps the acclaimed ‘Aquarian Quartet’ with Steve Newman, Syd Kitchen and Tony Cox, introducing Madala Kunene to his world of strings. Greg’s recordings and DVDs with the ethno-guitarist Madala Kunene, Ashish Joshi(tabla), Ernest Mothle(acoustic bass) and Bernard Mndaweni are widely available on YouTube.

From Zurich to Africa: Carlo Menet's Musical Odyssey with Madala Kunene and the Forest Jam Sessions

Carlo Menet is a guitarist and producer living in Zurich, Switzerland. His unique playing style attracted Madala Kunene’s attention during the 2014 FOREST JAM Melchtal gatherings. Madala soon called him Carlos Santana.  A  few months later in South Africa at the Cullinan Farm,  Carlo’s love for blues aesthetics and his passion for Groove came through. The True African Blues Man, Madala Kunene and Carlo recorded Zurich- Cullinan – a track right up Madala’s alley. Carlo then participated in more musical exchange projects with Forest Jam. He toured with different formations in South Africa, Madagascar and Mozambique, where he collaborated and gave concerts with other Southern African artists such as Mabi Gabriel Thobejane, Tarang Cissokho, Gontse Makhene,  Lerato Lichaba, Bernard Mndaweni Chico Antonio, Matchume Zango, Olombelo Ricky or Moravelo Gilbero aka Seva.

Mabi Gabriel Thobejane - From Malombo to Matrix

Mabi Thobejane was influenced by the women of the Balobedu tribe drumming in the streets of his hometown of Mamelodi. Uncle Dr. Phillip Tabane recruited him in the 70’s as the drummer for The Malombo Jazzmen. Mabi joined Sakhile with Sipho Gumede, then recorded and toured with Juno Reactor and worked with Ben Watkins on the MATRIX or MORTAL COMBAT soundtracks. 

But it’s only his best friend Madala Kunene with whom he regularly shared the stage.  In 2018 Mabi Thobejane and Madala Kunene celebrated their 50th Anniversary of a deep friendship and performing together. Throughout, they both got on with their own careers only to meet over and over again to be united in sharing their unique music with a crowd of dedicated fans.

Across Continents: The Story of One Pull and Madala Kunene's Musical Journey

Madala Kunene gave Swiss violin and bass player Matthias Abaecherli the  personalised tag ONE PULL. During the first FOREST JAM 2014 gathering in the Swiss Alps, Matthias stole Madala’s heart with his violin playing. One Pull moved to Durban in 2015, where he directed and co-produced all the Forest Jam sessions across Southern Africa. During One Pull’s stay he and Madala Kunene performed dozens of concerts where the white man stunned the crowd with his violin.  Most importantly it is his bass playing that caught the ears of the local Zulu Nation. One Pull just has THAT GROOVE much like his big brother Bernard Mndaweni – South Africa’s veteran groover. 

The Guitar Plays On: The Musical Odyssey of Simon Baba Mokoena

Born in Durban in the late 1940s, Simon Baba Mokoena’s musical journey began at 12 with a homemade guitar. By 17, he advanced to an acoustic guitar, joining Mhlathi and His Comets for four years before co-founding a jazz ensemble in Durban. Mokoena then explored African music in Johannesburg, contributing to Gibson Kente’s musicals and collaborating with notable artists at the Pelican Night Club. Significant engagements with ‘Sarafina’ playwright Mbongeni Ngema and contributions to Sipho Gumede’s “Down Freedom Avenue” alongside recording an album with Madala Kunene marked his career. Mokoena’s work, culminating in a 2003 SAMA-nominated album with Kunene,  solidified his legacy in South African music and a luxury seat in the  ancestral gallery of fine guitar players. RIP

Bafo Meets Keanu in the Big Apple in 2014

Madala Kunene performed at Carnegie Hall in New York. Among his new fans was Keanu Reeves, who came backstage to express his appreciation for the music of the true African Bluesman. The show was a South African showcase, and Kunene shared the stage with giants such as: Abdullah Ibrahim Bakithi Khumalo Ladysmith Black Mambazo Hugh Masekela Phuzekhemi.
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