King of the Zulu Guitar

Madala Kunene

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Despite there being 36 years difference between Dr. Madala Kunene and Guy Buttery, sparks flew right away at their first rehearsal for a TV show back in 2006. Madala and Guy have collaborated a number times over all these years but a recent artist residency and subsequent concert at the Nirox Foundation has taken this collaboration to new heights.

Commonly referred to as the “King of the Zulu Guitar”, Madala Kunene was recently awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the University of KwaZulu-Natal for his ongoing contribution to the development of indigenous music and to the music of Africa and that of the world. This will be Madala’s first tour with his new title of Doctor Madala Kunene. Madala is a genre unto himself. Born in 1947 in Mkhumbane (Cato Manor), a vibrant mixed community just outside of inner Durban, Kunene reflects his environment and his music acts as an urban war cry. His music is a portrait of an artist as a not-so-young man of faith, a sonic investigation that tries to make sense of the gradual process of sanitizing history—how the real past is purged for the sake of a historical sound bite. Kunene is an artist who is constantly shifting between musical habitats.

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,” Kunene says. “So if I can add one layer of context that can help in understanding this period in our history, then that is great.

Guy Buttery is something of a National treasure”, says South Africa’s leading newspaper. As an internationally recognised musician, this multi-instrumentalist enjoys invitations to play sell-out performances all over the globe. The USA, UK, Australia, France, Brazil, India and Italy have all welcomed him back year after year. However, to simply label Guy Buttery as one of South Africa’s musical phenoms would be an injustice. His international role has surpassed merely performing concerts to foreign audiences. It has evolved into one as an ambassador of South African music, inspiring people across the world with his home-grown style at the very heart of his talent and tenacity. Guy’s distinct unification of South African guitar music is the musical advocate for everything positive and beautiful about the place he calls home. In 2018, Guy received the highest accolade for a musician in South Africa and was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. In almost 4 decades of honouring artist throughout the country, this was the first time since its inception that the award was presented to a musician outside of the classical realm.

Together Madala and Guy have unearthed new musical landscapes taking cyclical Zulu guitar patterns to the East and back again in a psychedelic layering of textures, deeply rooted in KwaZulu-Natal. Expect high dynamics, deep grooves, delicate African inflections and mind-bending string playing of an entirely new order.

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Jerome Williams



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