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by World Music Network February 24, 2011


Obituary: Shiyani Ngcobo

Shiyani Ngcobo, master maskanda musician from KwaZulu-Natal passed away on the 18th February 2011. Shiyani’s music stood apart from the other many maskanda musicians playing and recording in South Africa largely on account of his resistance to local trends that favour electronic drums-kits and synthesizers. For Shiyani, these sounds were alien to the aesthetic of maskanda and its claim on Zulu tradition.

Shiyani’s life was marked by contradictions. He reached great heights as a performer, playing across the United Kingdom, Europe and Cuba. His acclaimed recording with World Music Network did much to increase his exposure beyond South Africa, and in 2007 he performed at Carnegie Hall, New York. Despite his international recognition he was largely snubbed by the music industry at home. He lived in humble circumstances and was devoted to his wife, Gertrude, daughter, Khanysile and two grandchildren. Shiyani taught maskanda guitar in School of Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and in an affiliated outreach program, UKUSA.  He was admired by students and academics alike.

Shiyani was a gentle and intense man with remarkable insights into human nature. His experience and emotions are captured in his music, which will most certainly be treasured by many across the globe. It was my great privilege to work closely with Shiyani. We shared many troubles and joys. Hamba Kahle my dear friend.

Dr Kathryn Olsen