Madala Kunene hums and sings Zulu folk songs, aphorisms and proverbs. Madala is the Zulu word – meaning an old man, a mature person, a knowledgeable individual or a sage. Madala Kunene’s quest through his music and teachings is to preserve ancient Zulu cultural and heritage knowledge. In 1994, at Umzansi Art Center in Clermont Township, Durban, Madala ran singing classes for 7-year-old girls, passing on many songs about growing up, about respect for the elders, about cleanliness, about working together and about diligence. Some songs were in the form of games, of Call and Response relay songs, of swopping lead voices as training. For urban-grown Primary School maidens, the parents really appreciated the grounding in Zulu folklore that Madala Kunene gave.
As a child, Madala experienced the trauma of forced removals, when his family and others were packed into trucks at gunpoint at night and taken to Kwa Mashu, a new township. The Apartheid government, was removing African communities that were mixed with Coloureds, Indians and Whites, and that were living close to the city. It was a brutal uprooting of childhood memories. Madala always sings about his cherished place uMkhumbane/Cato Manor, as a way of preserving this memory.
Madala Kunene’s concept and style of guitar playing is the 2 chord structure. But he emphasizes that his 2 chord is unique and different. Generally for novice guitarists, the 2 chord approach is the entry into guitar playing. It provides a level of stamina, in order to maintain smooth chord transitions and strumming through a whole song. Playing 2 chord songs helps to build up a repertoire of tunes. With just a little practice, any aspiring guitarist can have all of these songs learned.
“Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen (B – E)
“Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley (D – G)
“Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus (C – G)
“Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction (A – G)
“Something In The Way” by Nirvana (D – F#m)
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (D – G)
“Paperback Writer” by The Beatles (C – Em)
“Break On Through” by The Doors (D -Em)
“Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles (C – Em)
“I’ll take you there “, by The Staple Singers
Madala is often given the title 'King of Zulu guitar', however his music expands far beyond the traditional maskanda. His music is of universal appeal. He calls it Madalaline. Madala can be recognised in performance throughout the world through his multi coloured and typically African attire. He was recorded extensively by Melt2000 and has produced more than ten world class records.
Now, answer these questions.
1. Which of the international 2 chord songs listed above do you know and love. Why are you picking this song?
2. “Eleanor Rigby” which is now also a Jazz tune by The Crusaders. Do you know other 2 chord songs that have jumped genres?
3. From your selection, the library or online -choose a Madala Kunene tune that captures your imagination.
4. Do you have your own two-chord song that you can share with us? If not perhaps you can improvise together with a 2 chord Madala song, feeling into that call and response nature of the music?
Madala is often given the title 'King of Zulu guitar', however his music expands far beyond the traditional maskanda. His music is of universal appeal. He calls it Madalaline.
Madala Kunene makes 2 chord Madalaline Music. It has been described as Zulu folk, maskandi, Zulu blues and trance music. It carries the old Zulu songs, aphorisms, proverbs, call and response sing alongs and the urban memories of Apartheid, forced removals, harassment by police, and rites of passage. It holds the messages of our culture for up and coming musicians. Madala is an international musician. He has impressively collaborated with Western blue grass, rock, Afro-rock, African Jazz music.
Madala Kunene was born in 1951 in Mkhumbane/Cato Manor, a vibrant mixed community just outside of inner Durban. The son of a carpenter and a guitar player, Madala Kunene was raised by his grandmother. At the age of eight, in the year 1959, Madala Kunene and his extended family were forcibly removed from Umkhumbane. As a meditation on his history Madala released his latest album 1959. “Music is the best medium to record and tell history. As African people, the way we know and understand our past is very influenced by music,” Madala said.
The story of Madala’s first guitar
Madala got his first guitar in 1965, in Kwa Mashu, after the forced removals from uMkhumbane. That guitar had five strings instead of six. He bought it for 5 bob, today’s fifty cents. Madala, who was known as Mzwakhe in those days, wascoming from Curries Fountain stadium, after a show of Malombo Jazz, with great musicians including Early Mabuza, Mabi Thobejane and Happy Cindi.
After the show, Mzwakhe met a man carrying his guitar on his shoulder. He stared at the man in admiration and said he loved his guitar. The man asked if he had 5 bob. Mzwakhe replied, “Yes, but it’s my bus fare.”The man said, “Show me the money.” He took the money and handed over his guitar. Mzwakhe took the guitar and returned to Curries Fountain, to go and ask for bus fare from the musicians. Now that he had a guitar, he was on a high. He was just in time to catch up with their maroon Bedford bus, with a TJ number plate, as they were leaving.
Believe it or not, Thobejane through a red ten bob paper note through the window. It came floating in the wind. Mzwakhe chased it as it flew over into the fire brigade yard. The guard at the gate saw the way Mzwakhe was running and asked if he had stolen the guitar. Mzwakhe said, “No, I am chasing my ten bob, given by my friends in the bus. The ten bob that flew all the way into this yard.” Mzwakhe could see theten bob on the floor, but the guard could not. The guard took the guitar and allowed Mzwakhe to go fetch the ten bob. It was a bit of a distance.
When Mzwakhe returned with the money, the guard wanted to take it. Suspecting as an adult, the guard would not give the money back, Mzwakhe refused. The guard said, Mzwakhe was not allowed in the yard and yet he had let me in,so he had to give him fifty and take fifty, but he had no change.The guard said, Mzwakhe should leave the guitar and go to a nearby shop to get change. “No, I will take my guitar,” said Mzwakhe. The guard watched his every move. But,the moment the guard looked down, Mzwakhe vanished behind the shop, going for the bus.
Now answer the following questions
1. District Six, Sophiatown and Mkhumbane all had in common forced removals. What is your experience of this history? Can you find something about it to share with us?
2. Madala made his first guitar with a cooking oil can, a wooden piece and strings from a fishing line. Have you ever made a musical instrument? Tell us about it and how it worked for you?
3. Can you take the 2 chordstyle of Madalaline music and either transfer it to your instrument or improvise over it with the instrument you play?
4. Madala excels at taking a very simple story and turning it into music. What simple story do you have that you would like to tell over the two chord music. Can you put it into lyrics?