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Madosini, a South African nationwide treasure whose music stored a wealthy historical past alive

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Famend African musician, songwriter and storyteller Latozi “Madosini” Mphahleni handed away late in 2022. The cultural and indigenous music activist, who laughed as typically as she performed, was liked by everybody she met. She has left behind a wealthy legacy of Xhosa music, heritage and historical past. She additionally taught and nurtured a brand new era of bow gamers, reinvigorating an artwork that was dying.

The enduring South African Xhosa bow performer was born on 25 December 1943 (although she herself was unsure of the exact date) in a village known as Mqhekezweni close to Mthatha within the Jap Cape province. House to the Xhosa individuals, the area is wealthy in cultural heritage and historical past. Additionally it is the birthplace of a lot of South Africa’s most recognised battle heroes, together with former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

Madosini (mom of the Dosini clan), as she was extra generally recognized, used indigenous music to advertise her Xhosa heritage. She mastered devices just like the uhadi (gourd resonated bow), the umrhubhe (mouth resonated bow) and the isitolotolo (jaw harp).

Learn extra: New practices reinvent traditions in bow music

What she produced from these devices is exclusive in its selection and within the vary of emotions it evokes. Her songs are poems which communicate eloquently of a wealthy private and cultural historical past. They take listeners again to the music of the earliest inhabitants of southern Africa.

Madosini got here into contact with myself, my colleagues and our college students at Rhodes College within the Jap Cape, sharing her data with our music faculty and touching our lives.

Her contributions to the examine of Xhosa music, tradition and folklore are invaluable. Her drive to worth indigenous data will stay an inspiration to many all over the world.

The musician

Madosini started performing, composing songs and making devices at a younger age, studying from her mom, who was an knowledgeable of their taking part in and development. Attributable to an sickness, Madosini didn’t attend faculty and by no means learnt to learn or write. This didn’t hinder her success, nevertheless.

She went on to collaborate, utilizing a wide range of musical genres, with many well-known South African artists. Amongst them had been Ringo Madlingozi, Pops Mohamed, Thandiswa Mazwai and Sibongile Khumalo. She additionally labored with many worldwide artists, together with Flynn Cohen and Gilberto Gil.

Notably she labored with the good South African singer-songwriter Miriam Makeba and British rock singer Patrick Duff, with whom she toured the globe. The South African composer Hans Huyssen created The Songs of Madosini (vocals, uhadi, umrhubhe, isitolotolo, clarinet, string quartet and narrator) for her in 2002. And Madosini’s authentic compositions had been used within the South African films Yesterday and The Shore Break. Different recording samples had been performed in numerous movies and documentaries.

Mastery of the bows

Though Madosini grew to become recognized to common audiences principally as a singer and storyteller, it’s her lifelong mastery of the uhadi and umrhubhe bows, in addition to the isitolotolo, which have attracted musicologists like myself to her work.

The gamers of those devices exploit essentially the most primordial supply of musical pitch, the overtone collection, in a method that’s each intimately related with the earliest human society (the San people) and likewise distinctive to Xhosa music. Overtones supply an alternating tonality shift between the harmonics of two fundamentals.

Madosini not solely constructed and carried out on these devices since she was a youngster, but in addition taught them in individual to younger musicians and travelled extensively to share her world-class expertise with worldwide audiences. Till they met her, many had by no means had any affiliation with Xhosa individuals past Nelson Mandela.

The educator

Rhodes College and the Worldwide Library of African Music labored extensively with Madosini for a few years and awarded her an honorary doctorate in music in 2020. Attributable to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on the time, the bodily celebrations of this honour had been deferred. In 2022, she was formally robed and hooded in full view of her household and her neighborhood at Mkhankatho village.

She careworn the necessity to educate and practice younger individuals – not solely to worth indigenous data, however to make sure that Xhosa devices and tales remained related. She mentioned in a 2018 interview:

The youth have forgotten their roots. They don’t know the place they arrive from and it actually saddens me to see our cultures and traditions slowly die out.

Queen of Xhosa music

Because the queen of Xhosa music, Madosini was undoubtedly a towering determine in South African tradition. Her position as a traditionalist in a fast-changing society introduced a golden alternative for analysis and exploration into indigenous data techniques. These are integral to the preservation of South Africa’s cultural heritage.

We at Rhodes College honour her unimaginable spirit, and we’re grateful for her contribution to the revaluing of conventional bow taking part in in South Africa and the world.