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Sunday, March 18, 2012


(Acclaimed Zulu guitarist Madala Kunene. Photo by Deon Maritz)

Internationally acclaimed Zulu guitarist, Madala Kunene has been confirmed as the featured act for this year’s Splashy Fen Music Festival, which is supported by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and takes place near Underberg over the Easter long weekend, April 5 to 9.

"For me, Splashy is the number one festival at home, and I always enjoy playing there," says Kunene, who is “very happy” to be honoured in this way.

Kunene already has 11 Splashys under his belt, including the inaugural festival back in 1990. Having played so many, he has been privileged to watch the festival grow to become one of South Africa’s most celebrated live music events.

Very much a musician’s musician, this unique Zulu artist has collaborated, recorded or shared the stage with some of the best in the business, including Sipho Gumede, Busi Mhlongo, Mabi Tobejane, Moses Molelekwa, Doc Mthalane, Syd Kitchen, Tony Cox, Guy Buttery and Swiss guitarist Max Lasser. This month, he is in Johannesburg recording with another internationally-acclaimed musician, Hugh Masekela.

Reading and writing may not be Madala Kunene’s “thing”, (at just seven he turned his back on formal education, hence he reads and writes very little), but music most certainly is! Or, as the late Syd Kitchen once put it, “Music is immersed in Madala’s soul”.

As a youngster, Kunene started out strumming a “guitar” made out of a cooking oil tin and fishing gut. Before the forced removals, home was in Cato Manor, close to Durban’s city centre. At 10 he graduated to busking on the beach front, his first “real guitar” costing just 50 cents! He also remembers imitating the music of the times – The Beatles, Shadows and Rolling Stones – but that was then, and he has since steadfastly avoided being influenced by other people’s music. “My music comes from many places, but it is all mine,” says Kunene, whose sound has been described as a combination of blues and soul with African folk.

Now in his early 60s, Kunene, who, among other things, composed the score for Darrell Roodt’s Oscar and Emmy nominated isiZulu drama, Yesterday, looks back over decades rich with diverse experiences. On the home front, he has been married twice and is the father of nine, with his youngest, Zimbali, just seven months old.

Despite his own lack of formal education, Kunene’s dearest wish is to see all his children educated and “settled and doing well.” Another wish is to see government giving more support to South African artists, “the same sort of support they give to sport – to cricket, rugby and soccer!”

Asked for one thing that fans would find surprising about him, Kunene, who once played soccer for African Wanderers, reveals that the team he supports nowadays is Tottenham Hotspurs!

Old and new fans alike can look forward to experiencing the magic of Madala Kunene during his featured act performance in the Grant Erskine Marquee at Splashy Fen on April 6.

Also included on the bill for this four-day festival are the likes of Van Coke Kartel, Lark, Arno Carstens and Albert Frost, Tidal Waves, The Graeme Watkins Project, Jeremy Loops, Dan Patlansky, Southern Gypsey Queen, Mr Cat and The Jackal, The Rudimentals, Hog Hoggidy Hog, December Streets, Shadowclub, Gangs of Ballet, P.H.Fat and Niskerone, among many others.

Tickets R500 at Computicket include camping for the entire festival. Children aged 4-11 pay R125 and children under four get in free. For more information and the full programme, visit or contact 031 563 0824.