From the minute Nkalakatha played before the start of the official programme, it was clear Mandoza’s memorial service would be anything but a sad occasion.
People made the circle bigger, danced and rapped along to every single lyric. This went on throughout the service as songs played between each speaker’s turn. Kabelo Mabalane – long-time friend and music colleague of the late Mandozo (real name Mduduzi Tshabalala) – even made concessions for people to dance.
It was a joyous celebration of the life of a man who was a legend in the industry.
MEC of sports, arts, culture and recreation in Gauteng, Faith Mazibuko, hailed Mandoza as an ambassador of Zola, the township in which he grew up.
She said it was because of him that artists from Zola like Mzambiya and Mshoza had the confidence to join the industry and believe in their talent.
Mabalane said he never imagined when Mandoza asked him to be his best man at his wedding that a few years down the line he would be the programme director at his memorial service. Mabalane said Mandoza was a great thinker and often had lyrics and sayings that only he understood.
“Remember when Mdu said: ‘Move your cyborg, move your skeleton?’ I never asked what that meant,” Mabalane laughed.
He said even though Mandoza would say things he didn’t understand at first, he would later catch on.
“Mdu said ‘ngeke ngife until I die’,” Mabalane quoted.
The phrase means “I’ll never die until I die”, something Mabalane said he realised was profound much later – Mandoza meant he needed to live a full life until death.
Mandoza was full of life and did not allow anything to get him down, even in his final days, as Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa pointed out.
“This was a brave lion. He looked death in the eye and said ‘iyahlanya le cancer’,” Mthethwa said.
The service was a tribute and a coming together of veteran kwaito artists. At one point in the programme, artist Brickz took to the stage and asked people to join him as he had an impromptu performance.
“This is what happens when a kwaito artist dies,” said Mabalane after the performance.
Tokollo “Magesh” Tshabalala said he loved Mandoza’s talent and Mandoza loved his. Asking the crowd if kwaito was dead, he said it was clear through current music that it was not.
“There are new artists who come up and it’s so nice; we are working with them ... and sometimes they cover our songs and I like the synergy we are having,” Tshabalala said.
He asked fellow kwaito artists not to give up on the genre as it had made many people’s careers possible.
Mandoza's wife Mpho. Pictures: Leon Sadiki/City Press
Danny K perfoming during Mandoza's memorial service. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa embraces Mpho.
Friends, family, fans and fellow musician came in large numbers to pay tribute.
Kwaito artist Brickz pay tribute at the Mandoza memorial.
Kabelo Mabalane was the MC
Kwaito artists Doc Shebeleza, Sbu Maloya, Mdu Masilela and Arthur Mafokate pay tribute
Mandoza was remembered by his uncle as a child who followed his dream even though it was not the conventional dream they would have hoped for him.
He said when Mandoza decided to go into music they supported him because they were a family of singers and musicians.
He said Mandoza loved his community, which is why when he got married he returned so his community could see him and his wife, Mpho, tie the knot.
Mpho was lauded by many of Mandoza’s friends and colleagues as his rock and pillar of strength.
Music producer, Gabi le Roux, said Mpho was a great partner for Mandoza.
“I once made the mistake of saying Mpho was behind him,” he said.
Le Roux said she was, in fact, in front of him, pulling him and standing “shoulder to shoulder” with him.
Le Roux shared the story of how Nkalakatha came about, saying it was almost too easy; it was divine intervention.
“It was the creator and the ancestors working together for all of us,” he said.
The song came at a time when Mandoza was already famous as a breakaway solo artist from kwaito group Chiskop, with the hit track Uzoyithola Kanjani, which also featured Chiskop. Le Roux said they were worried about doing better than that track but they did that and even more.
The memorial ended with a bang when artists like Arthur Mafokate, Mdu Masilela, Sbu Maloya, and Doc Shebeleza hit the stage with some of their best songs.
The funeral will be on Friday at 8am at Grace Bible Church. Buses will be available as a park-and-ride service from the church to West Park Cemetery.