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Obituary: Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo (1932 – 2021)

The Creative Feel team is deeply saddened to report on the passing of revered choral music composer and conductor, Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo, who passed on Tuesday morning at the age of 89.

Mzilikazi Khumalo

Khumalo was perhaps best-known for forming part of the committee that amalgamated the Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika prayer with Die Stem to form the post-apartheid South African national anthem. He also helped put together the first Zulu language opera, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, composed the cantata uShaka KaSenzangakhona, which tells the story of the Zulu king, Shaka and, together with conductors Richard Cock and Danny Pooe, was responsible for the Mass Choir Festival, broadcast live on SABC TV.
     Khumalo was born on a farm in KwaNgwelu, Kwa-Zulu Natal in 1932. His parents were ordained ministers in the Salvation Army, which ran the farm at the time, and much of Khumalo’s early compositions reflect both his religion and his ancestry. Following his high school education, Khumalo studied at the teachers’ training college in Mamelodi, obtained a bachelor’s degree from UNISA, and went on to obtain a Master’s degree and a PhD, both from Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He would later become professor emeritus of African languages at Wits.
     In response to Khumalo’s passing, CEO and Artistic Director of the Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestras Bongani Tembe said:

‘Prof Mzilikazi Khumalo was one of the most talented South African composers. We were very proud of him and his work. I am so delighted that the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra played his music more often than any other institution in South Africa. We performed uShaka KaSenzangakhona so many times and we also premiered his opera, the first Zulu opera, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu. May his soul rest in peace. Condolences to his dear family.’

The Creative Feel team mourns the tragic loss of another one of South Africa’s artistic greats, and extend our condolences to Khumalo’s family and friends.  

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