Dr. Madala Kunene: The Ageless African Bluesman Who Rocked Durban ICC 2023

Rock ‘n’ Roll Reverberations: My Musical Foundations

The rock ‘n’ roll anthems of my youth, from Led Zeppelin to Jimi Hendrix, are forever etched in my veins, igniting a lifelong passion for diverse music genres. There’s something about a particular Allman Brothers Band live track that catapults me back to the heady days of youthful rebellion, thanks to my comrade’s insistence on replaying those tunes that made us shake, rattle, and roll.

Madala Kunene at the Durban ICC Jazz Festival 2024

Madala Kunene: The Gentle Giant of Zulu Blues

For three decades, witnessing the performances of Bluesman Madala Kunene has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Often, I’ve found myself marvelling at how this serene Zulu idol transforms into a rock titan before a towering stack of speakers and bass bins, captivating audiences with his sheer musical prowess.

The Evolving Artistry of a Blues Legend

As Madala, affectionately known as Bafo, moves quite a bit beyond his 70th year, we’ve all noticed a subtle shift in his stage presence, choosing to sit as he weaves his guitar magic—a testament to his daily dedication to his craft. While some nuances of his ever-changing style may go unnoticed by many, I plan to delve into these observations in a future blog.

The 21st Durban Jazz Festival: A Largescale Triumph

On the 27th of December 2023, Madala Kunene’s performance at the Durban ICC, part of the 21st Durban Jazz Festival, was nothing short of legendary. Flanked by an arsenal of Turbosound speakers, Madala delivered an electrifying set that reminded us of his indomitable spirit and strength.

Living Legends and Lamentable Soundscape

Recognising Greatness: The VAN TOEKA AF SERIES

Earlier in October 2023, at the Playhouse event part of the “VAN TOEKA AF – LIVING LEGENDS RECOGNITION SERIES,” Madala was duly awarded the LEGEND status by The Hon Zizi Kodwa – Minister for Sports, Arts & Culture.



The University of KwaZulu Natal earlier honoured world-renowned guitarist Madala Kunene with an honorary doctorate. This was in recognition of the phenomenal contribution to the music of Africa and that of the world.

Dr Muziwakhe ‘Madala’ Kunene honoured with an honorary doctorate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

However, the concert suffered from a disjointed stage setup that stifled the musicians’ synergy. It’s disheartening to witness the poor sound quality at state-run institutions, especially when we strive to lure tourists back to Durban’s shores. I can’t help but question: What’s amiss in KZN?

The Giant Awakens – The Resurgence of an African Blues Powerhouse

But everything changed that December evening. Madala Kunene stood up and rocked with a vigour we hadn’t seen in years. His band, a blend of seasoned pros and bright new talents, included a brass section and the gifted bassist Bernard Mndaweni.

We can’t overlook the spellbinding cameo by Mthuthu Ndebele, a name you’ll want to remember—or better yet, Google immediately!

 Percussionist Njabulo, with no fuss, has been on Madala’s side for several years and has had to fill some authentic big shoes, especially since master drummer Mabi Gabriel Thobejane passed away.

Bafo and Mabi shared stages for 5 decades.


The Line-Up That Made History

  • Madala Kunene: Guitar, Jaws Harp, Vocals 
  • Special Guest: Mthuthu Ndebele – Vocals

Band Members: 

  • Bernard Mndaweni- Bass guitar
  • Ntokozo Nsibande – Trumpet
  • Siyalo Zulu- Trombone
  • Sthembiso Ntuli- saxophone
  • Njabulo Shabalala- Percussion
  • Sbusiso Shabalala – keyboard
  • Sbusiso Zondi- drums 

The Madala Kunene Concert: A New Entry in My Hall of Fame

Despite the audio challenges, Madala Kunene’s Live Performance at Durban ICC on December 27th, 2023, has secured its place in my closely guarded Hall of Fame.

The meticulous rehearsals under Bernard Mndaweni’s expertise resulted in a performance that resonated with authenticity and groove—a true testament to the power of African Blues.

Stiff Pap

Scroll to Top