OVER the years, Vusi Ximba’s humorous songs have provided entertainment at sheebeens, weddings and other functions in townships all over South Africa.

On Wednesday morning, the entertainment industry was shocked by the news that the veteran singer and accordion player succumbed to his long battle with HIV. Ximba died at his home in Pietermaritzburg.

In a statement released by the Department of Arts and Culture, MEC Weziwe Thusi expressed great sadness at the loss of the prominent KwaZulu-Natal artist.

Upon hearing the news of the Ximba’s death, friend and fellow musician Mfundisi Makitaza rushed to Ximba’s home to comfort the family.

“The family and the neighbours are still in shock and so am I. We have been working together since 1999 and the last song we did was a duet.

“Mbongeni Ngema talked about collaboration late last year but, sadly, we never got around to it.

“It was painful to see him sick like that – he did not even have the strength to pick up an accordion and I had to play it for him.

“At least the last good memory I have of him was laughing and joking as we collected our awards at last year’s eThekwini’s Living Legends awards ceremony,” Makitaza said.

Ximba’s music did not receive much airplay because of his lyrics, which sometimes walked a thin line between being outspoken and vulgarity. However, his story-telling through his maskandi pop and skits, which included dancers and the exchange of comic banter, made him a household name.

His debut album Siyadumisa was released in 1998 and sold more than 100 000 copies.

Retired Ukhozi FM station manager Welcome “Bhodloza” Nzimande said the sad thing was that Ximba did not have a protégé to carry on his legacy.

“What Vusi did for the music industry was very important. If only he had groomed more singers to carry on what he started when he was gone.

“My favourite song is Umntanami Ejele – the way he describes prison life brings laughter to everyone.

“The man was so creative and unique that he even wrote a song about a rickshaw. It’s a pity even though people love his music and it will go on for years to come, he died poor, that’s sad,” said Dlamini.

For hip hop group Jozi, Ximba’s musical talent paved the way to success with the hit what’s with the attitude from their debut Motherland Crunk in 2007. They also had a huge hit with a remake of Ximba’s song Wayethin’umame.

“We are shocked to hear of Vusi’s passing, it was a real honour to work with him. He will always be close to our hearts and be remembered for the contribution and role he played in creating the Jozi Muthaland Sound.

“We are grateful that he allowed us to use his music – he definitely made his mark on the South African music scene,’’ said Jozi’s Ishmael.

The other half of Jozi, Da Les, offered the group’s condolences to the Ximba family.

“I’m honoured to have met him and had the opportunity to perform on the same stage. His contribution to the South African music industry is timeless,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, gospel group Avante lost their lead singer Siphiwe Khanyile to a short illness, making it a black day for the province’s entertainment industry.