About Madala Kunene

The Genesis of a Musical Shaman

Born in the vibrant streets of Cato Manor, Durban, in 1949, Madala Kunene, affectionately known as Bafo, emerged as a legend deeply rooted in Zulu culture and its musical rhythms. His musical journey commenced at the tender age of 7, strumming makeshift guitars crafted from cooking oil tins and fish gut along Durban’s beachfront. Despite humble beginnings, Kunene’s innate talent soon caught attention, laying the foundation for his stellar rise in the music scene.

The Road to Recognition

Forced removals to KwaMashu in 1959 did not deter Kunene’s musical aspirations; instead, it fuelled his determination. He swiftly gained local acclaim, sharing stages with luminaries like Doc Mthalane and Busi Mhlongo. Kunene’s music transcended mere melodies; it became a narrative of ancestral dreams and Zulu folklore, weaving stories that resonated deeply with audiences.

Kunene’s musical journey reached international heights with the release of his debut album in 1990, produced by Sipho Gumede. His collaboration with MELT2000 on “Konko Man,” featuring legendary artists like Busi Mhlongo and Flora Purim, marked a cultural milestone, bridging African sounds with global music landscapes.

A Collaborative Spirit: Bridging Generations

Kunene’s collaborations epitomise musical synergy, blending histories and futures. From Mabi Gabriel Thobejane, Max Laesser, Baba Mokoena Serakoeng, CHICO ANTONIO, Syd Kitchen, Bernard Mndaweni, Steve Newman, Themba Mokoena, Guy Buttery, or SHANA, Kunene’s partnerships transcend generations, enriching his music with diverse influences. His performances at Carnegie Hall in New York and 5 years of involvement with FOREST JAM underscore his commitment to mentoring young talents and fostering cross-cultural dialogue.

Recognition of the Spiritual Healer in Music

Madala Kunene’s music transcends mere entertainment; it embodies a profound healing essence. Drawing from traditional Zulu songs and ancestral messages, his performances evoke a shamanistic experience, channeling spiritual energies. This spiritual essence earned Kunene an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in May 2023, recognizing his profound impact on indigenous music.

The South African Department of Arts and Culture honoured legendary guitarist Madala Kunene in a two-part event in Durban in October 2023. The event marked the sixth edition of the Van Toeka Af Living Legends Recognition Series, an initiative by the department that recognizes and acclaims South Africa’s living legends in the creative and cultural sectors.

On April 30, 2024, President M.C. Ramaphosa honoured Dr. Madala Kunene with the Gold Order of Ikhamanga for his exceptional contribution to the arts, utilising sounds that are unique to South Africa. The Order of Ikhamanga is a prestigious South African civilian honour granted by the President to South African citizens who have made significant achievements in arts, culture, literature, music, and journalism. Ikhamanga, the Xhosa name for Strelitzia reginae, symbolises the recognition of outstanding achievement and excellence.

The Enduring Influence

In an ever-changing music landscape, Kunene’s music remains a beacon of authenticity and tradition. His ability to uphold his roots while embracing change serves as a guiding light for artists and promoters alike. Kunene’s legacy transcends generations, shaping the future of South African music and inspiring artists worldwide.

Madala Kunene is not just a musician; he is a musical shaman, weaving a tapestry of sound that captures Africa’s heart and the blues’ soul. His journey from Cato Manor to the global stage is a testament to the transformative power of music—a legacy that continues to resonate in the hearts of music lovers worldwide.

In May 2023, the University of KwaZulu-Natal awarded Kunene an honorary Doctor of Music degree, recognising his invaluable contribution to developing indigenous music. The accolade is a testament to his role as a cultural ambassador, bringing the Zulu culture and Southern African music to the world’s stage.

Madala Kunene is a true African bluesman whose guitar gently speaks the language of the soul, echoing through time and inspiring generations to come.

You, Madala, are The True African Bluesman !

Madala is a healer, an accomplished and individual acoustic guitarist and a singer. He – like Mali’s Ali Farka Toure – possessed the vibe of an African bluesman


Release Date
Madala Kunene Vinyl Release 1990
Outernational Meltdown - Free At Last Sanibonani with Airto Moreira 1994
Outernational Meltdown - Healers Brew Mamgobhozi - A Woman's Name 1994
King of The Zulu Guitar 1994
Konko Man 1995
Freedom Countdown Compilation with Barney Bophela & Mandla Masuku 1996
Madamax with Max Laesser 1996
First Double 1&2 with Baba Mokoena Serakoeng 1999
Uxolo with Bernard Mndaweni 2000
Respect - Robert Doc Mthalane, Madala Kunene, Mabi Thobejane & Busi Mhlongo 2000
Madamax Bafo with Max Laesser 2005
Bafo Bafo with Syd Kitchen 2006
Forest Jam Sessions 2014-2016
1959 feat. Hugh Masekela 2015
Khaya Records 7" Series Vol. III with Guy Buttery 2017
Durban Poison - At Last! with Themba Mokoena 2019
The Bootleg Tapes with Mabi Gabriel Thobejane and Forest Jam 2020
Bafo The Mentor with Forest Jam 2021
The 1990 Hidden Years Recordings (Digital) 2022
Live @ 2018 NAF Grahamstown Festival 2023
The Forest Jam Sessions Vol.2 - Live at The Orbit with Chico Antonio 2023
Music With No Name vol. 1 - Ubombo (Remix by Smith & Mighty) 1996
Music With No Name vol. 3 - What About? (Gum Drop Remix) 2008
Music With No Name Vol. 4 - Isiqomqomae (Remix by Monde Mkhizwana) 2009
Black Motion Album Ya Badimo - uGayo feat. Madala & Mabi Thobejane 2016
Fakazile - Mayine feat. Mandala Kunene (Single) 2020
iSambulo - Isangoma (feat. Madala Kunene) 2020
KoMama - Madala Kunene, Muzi (Clan beat Single) 2020
DJ Kabila - Suka (feat. Madala Kunene) 2022
Mthuthu - Bambanani (feat. Madala Kunene) 2023
M2KR Remixes 2023 REEL ONE with DJ Lineup with Syost, Black Motion x Osaze, Deeper Kings, OddXperienc, 3rio Symphony and Guy Buttery 2023
M2KR Remixes 2023 REEL TWO with DJ Zee Da Pro (feat Hugh Masekela) 2023
Spirit of Durban with Madala Kunene & Helge van Dyk 2023
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