Zulu Song Cycle, Clayton Morar Media

One of KwaZulu-Natal’s finest musical talents, Thokozani Mhlambi, is set to perform a once-off concert in Cape Town this month.

Known professionally as Dr Thokozani Mhlambi, this South African composer, cellist and cultural thinker is set to dazzle Mother City audience with his musical showcase: Zulu Song Cycle


Zulu Song Cycle, which is a compilation of songs in keeping with spirit of the region, will take place at The Baxter Theatre Centre on 26 May.

Mhlambi explains that The Song Cycle is a format widely associated with the German Lieder form that was pioneered by composers such as Schubert, Weber and Beethoven. “Unlike the large-scale works typified in forms such as Opera, the Song Cycle is an intimate one driven a lot by the lyricism of the words sung. Given the fact that Zulu is a tonal language, it makes it a language very suitable for this kind of form, along with its nuanced gesture,” he says.

It seems befitting for Mhlambi to host this showcase during Africa Month. He says that some of the pieces contained in Song Cycle are a reflection of key historical moments.

“Capetonians can expect to experience a tribute to Ntsikana, the great Xhosa poet who lived in the 18th century. Legend has it Ntsikana began to preach a message of Christian conversion to his people before European missions arrived. One of his instructions was that the people must throw away the red clay, the red clay (udaka olubovu) being the paste that people used to smear on their faces, which was considered to be the practice of the ‘uncivilized’ (amaqaba) once missionaries had arrived. Here the cello imitates the sound of ugubhu musical bow that Princess Magogo would play, while the voice soars above it in a kind of dramatic musical dialogue.”

Mhlambi adds: “The concert will also include renditions of solo cello pieces of JS Bach and healing songs of Medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen, who was considered to be a heretic nun during her time.”


Shiba Mazaza (MC).
Shiba is curator/writer of concepts, and has worked with the likes of Toya Delazy, Hugh Masekela, Pharrell Williams. Recently, she was part of the team that brought the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival to life.

Ncebakazi Mnukwana (Xhosa Uhadi bow)
Ncebakazi is a lecturer in African music and music education at the Stellenbosch University, with great local and international work experience. She has worked on numerous collaborations with Khoi Konnexion, Cape Cultural Collective, to mention a few.

Theo Ndindwa (dancer)
Theo is the Director of Ikapa Dance Theatre Company, a Cape Town-based dance company which Theo uses to harness his global relationships with dancers, choreographers and composers, in order to bring rich vibrancy to the Cape Town dance scene.


Tickets for Zulu Song Cycle can be purchased via Webtickets at either, and are priced at R100 each. You may also book tickets directly from the Baxter Theatre via 0861 915 800 or


Thokozani Ndumiso Mhlambi is the NRF Postdoctoral Fellow in Innovation, at the Archive & Public Culture Research Initiative at the University of Cape Town. Through his music, he explores the iconic cultural legacy of the region, with the likes of Busi Mhlongo, Princess Magogo, Mazisi Kunene – creatively through new music, combining African and classical elements. He is often seen talking with his audiences while on stage, teaching on African innovative and dramatic forms, while gripping them in mesmeric music textures, of song and declamatory vocal lines.

Mhlambi’s compositions are simple and yet musically incisive; they show a deep engagement with the archive (the rich history of southern Africa) whilst wrestling with contemporary forms; they convey the rigours of Western classical discipline, with the imaginative limitlessness of African performance traditions.

In 2016 his composition “Uyambona lo Mfana,” was performed by the Delta Ensemble of Modern Music in Brazil. He is a winner of the African Studies Prize. In 2016 he was also commissioned by New Music SA to compose an electronic piece which was performed at the Unyazi Electronic Music Festival in Cape Town. Mhlambi was also one of the featured artists in the World Summit on Arts & Culture. His piece “Ukuxhentsa kwa Miriam: Inspired by the life of Miriam Makeba” was proudly published by the Miriam Makeba Foundation on their online platforms. “Ukuxhentsa” was originally commissioned by the Izithunguthu Precolonial Conference 2015.

In 2017, Mhlambi composed a Tone Poem, Isililo esamboza Umhlaba, based on the life of Shaka, the great Zulu king; which was premiered in Durban at the KZN Concert Series.

In 2018, he launched a campaign on African Intellectuals as composers of music, drawing on the inspiration of Enoch Sontonga, Tiyo Soga and James & John Johnson (United States), in cooperation with Luthuli Museum, Marianhill Monastery and the US Consulate. The campaign was selected as the Creative Design of the Week by City Press.

He has been a guest lecturer in Music at the University of Marinhao (Brazil), University of Jyvaskyla (Finland), where he showcased indigenous music traditions of South Africa. He has published on numerous music related topics including kwaito, house music, loudspeaker broadcasting. His paper on kwaito, “Kwaitofabulous” remains one of the most cited papers on popular music in South Africa. He is also involved in a number of music-related BRICS initiatives, including the AfroAsia (whose aim is to expand knowledge on music exchanges that took place between Africa and India from the 13th century), as well as the Sonologia: Sound Studies initiative at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. In 2017, he was invited to present in China on African Kings.

He has performed and given workshops in New York, Vancouver and Montreal (Canada), Windhoek (Namibia), Maputo (Mozambique), Gaborone (Botswana), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *