Dr Philip Tabane. Picture: Supplied

Last week, it was announced that prolific musician, Dr Philip Tabane, had passed on. He was 84 years old. While obituaries have gone out in numbers celebrating the life and times of a legend, how Dr Tabane changed the face of African music cannot be emphasised enough.

The academics can argue about what song was released when or its significance in the canon, but we thought we’d simply highlight a few songs that you ought to look up if you find yourself wondering: Who exactly was Dr Tabane?


The song, which shares a name with the popular SABC Tshivenda drama Muvhango, was used by the television series as the opening title sequence for the show. Other songs from the album Muvhango, like Bakubeletsi and Nkupi have also made appearances in between scenes on the television show.


Also taken from the album Muvhango, this song was made popular among a younger generation of people after house duo, Revolution, the twin DJs George and Joseph Mothiba, remixed the song for their album The Journey, released in 2002.

The remix features the same vocals and melody as found in the original album. It is believed there was some controversy surrounding the song after the duo was alleged to have remixed the song without Tabane’s permission. He is said to have relented after hearing the song. The album on which the song papers earned the duo Metro and Sama awards for Best Club DJ and Best Selling Release respectively.


A seminal song from Philip Tabane and Malombo (and the eponymous album) was inspired by Tabane’s upbringing. His mother was a traditional healer and so it’s no surprise that the drums played a big role in the music.

The passing of Dr Tabane has made one thing clear: We don’t document the lives of game changers in music and beyond nearly enough - especially the ones who were and are constantly resisting the confines of labels.

As celebrated journalist Gwen Ansell wrote on her blog shortly after the news of Dr Tabane’s passing broke: “Tabane was not ‘like’ any other player, and his various honorary doctorates were less than his status as an original creator of unique sounds merited. To hear him live was miraculous.”