His Excellency the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa; our beautiful songbird, Dr Sibongile Khumalo; Director of the KZN Heritage Foundation, Mr Mbuso Khoza; the very knowledgeable Dr GN Donda; my daughter, Princess Sibuyiselwe Angela Buthelezi; members of my family; esteemed guests and performers.
I am delighted to speak this afternoon as we celebrate the Second Annual Amahubo International Music Symposium and, of course, as we launch the Order of Princess Magogo Awards.
Last year, at our very first symposium, I had the pleasure of delivering the Princess Magogo lecture. This gave me the opportunity to speak about my late mother; about her experiences, the impetus to her music, and the character behind her success. Who better to deliver the second lecture on Princess Magogo than Dr Sibongile Khumalo, who was inspired by my mother during the visits to our home with her talented parents.
I must thank Dr Khumalo, not only for speaking so beautifully about my mother, but for still singing her songs.
This morning, Princess Magogo’s granddaughter, Princess Sibuyiselwe, enlightened us on the joys and burdens of carrying the genes of such a remarkable woman. It humbles me to see the strength of my daughters. They have certainly inherited the genes of Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, for they too have forged a path for themselves in this world without waiting on anyone to give them permission.
When one sees a familiar thread running through several generations, it is evidence of something powerful.
Professor Kofi Agawu, the Ghanaian born Professor of Music at Princeton University, once wrote the following: “The emancipation of African music begins precisely at the point where our priorities shift from valuing present realities to constructing future possibilities.”
My mother didn’t just sing for the present. She spun a legacy with her voice and her instruments, to create a future in which indigenous music was widely appreciated, embraced and valued. This is what set her music free. She was not limited by her gender, her culture, or her status as a married woman. She was not limited by the times in which she lived, or the expectations placed on her.
She was a pioneer; a courageous advocate for our heritage. Through her, the music of the Zulu nation was heard throughout the world. She made space for us on the world stage, and that space was filled by the next generation. To me, that is the greatest legacy.
I am therefore fully in agreement with the nominees that have been chosen to receive the Order of Princess Magogo Award, for these exceptional people have that same legacy. They carved out a space for us, for our heritage, for our culture; and they have inspired the next generation to shine in that space.
The first nominee, Dr Sibongile Khumalo, is a wonderfully accomplished singer whose voice is recognised by international audiences. She was raised in a home filled with music. Her father became the Professor of Music at the University of Zululand. But many years before that, he conducted the Male Voice Choir at Adams College, which I readily joined as a young student.
Professor Khabi Mngoma and his wife Grace would bring the young Sibongile to our home at KwaPhindangene to visit my mother, and Princess Magogo would play her Ugubhu musical bow and sing. How wonderful that Dr Khumalo’s own gift secured for her the Order of Ikhamanga, just like Princess Magogo.
Another recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga, is Dr Peki Emelia “Nothembi” Mkhwebane, the Queen of Ndebele Music. From a musical but disadvantaged family, Nothembi grew to become a talented musician who has performed in such places as New York, London, France and Australia. She placed Ndebele music on the world stage.
Professor Joseph Shabalala, founder and musical director of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, can only be described as a national treasure. His long career has held many highlights, but the latter days are just as important as the former, for Professor Shabalala has established a music academy to teach isicathamiya music to young children. What a blessing it is for him to see his own children embracing music as a career.
The late Mam Patty Masuku also inspired her children and even her grandchildren to celebrate indigenous music. Together with her late husband, Mr Alfred Nokwe, Mam Masuku breathed life into African music. Their granddaughter still plays the umakhweyana when she tours internationally. That is a generational legacy.
Finally, the late Dr Philip Tabane deserves to be honoured. Dr Malombo inspired a new generation of contemporary artists, including his own son. We still miss this brilliant guitarist and philosopher whom we lost just this year, in May. Nchipi, as he was affectionately known, valued our African heritage.
At the height of his career, he was asked by Miles Davis to stay in America and make music. But he refused. He said, “Malombo is the sacred music of the continent. It can’t flourish on foreign soil.”
These nominees have all made an outstanding contribution to developing the arts and indigenous music. Their life’s work has advanced our heritage and given us an inheritance that is beyond measure.
I thank each one of them, recognising that they deserve our utmost gratitude. I also thank Mr Mbuso Khoza, who birthed this symposium. Through the KZN Heritage Foundation, Mr Khoza is building his own legacy, focusing our attention on the strong foundation that has been laid for the future of indigenous music.
I look forward to next year’s symposium for I am excited to see how this journey unfolds. I know that I have more years behind me than ahead, but the future still excites me. There is a beat in my soul that is never silent. It is the sound of Africa’s music.
I thank you.