Maskandi muso Mfaz'Omnyama dies of cancer

By Time of article published Mar 20, 2001

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By Themba wa Sepotokele

Legendary maskandi producer and singer Mphatheni Khumalo, popularly known as Mfaz'Omnyama, was worth his weight in gold.

I came to this conclusion the first time I saw him performing live during the Mahlathini benefit concert at Vosloorus Stadium last year.

Mfaz'Omnyama's music dazzled us all as he strummed his guitar with his left hand and we danced the day away.

As we were enjoying the maskandi or mbaqanqa music (traditional Zulu music), little did we realise that the great Khumalo would soon join the departed Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde.

Khumalo, 42, succumbed to cancer at St Benedict Hospital in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday.

He leaves a wife and eight children.

When friend and colleague Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya asked me to write a piece about the man whom we both liked as a person and musician, my mind raced to April 9 when my other half and I joined throngs of partygoers at the stadium to bid farewell to Mahlathini.

It was there that Mfaz'Omnyama and other maskandi stalwarts such as Abafana Besishingishane, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, and the Mahotella Queens (a group with which Mahlathini performed), thrilled revellers.

Mfaz'Omnyama, meaning "black woman", was talented and the rarest of his breed. His music was about life, with emphasis on our roots, culture and heritage.

"I fuse all our various cultures and put them in a single melting pot," he once said in an interview.

His latest album, Ngisebenzile Mama, was a masterpiece. Go to any hostel or taxi rank, and you will find people playing it in their rooms or minibus taxis.

Mfaz'Omnyama's other albums included Khula Tshitshi Lami, Ngiyashisa Lami and Emazweni.

He had collaborated with Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse on some of his songs, and also with other maskandi kingpins Ihashi Elimhlophe and Phuzukemisi in the Sxaxa Mbiji project.

He had strings of gold and platinum discs.

Mfaz'Omnyama had toured Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong, and wooed audiences everywhere.

How sad it is that the former mineworker, who was spotted and nurtured by Ukhozi FM general manager Bhodloza Nzimande in 1989, is no longer with us.

We can be consoled to some extent by the knowledge that his music lives on.

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