Honorary doctorate from Rhodes for Xhosa music legend

Madosini Latozi Mpahleni, the legendary Xhosa musician, has received an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University for her contribution to advancing indigenous music.
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Madosini Latozi Mpahleni, the legendary Xhosa musician, has received an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University for her contribution to advancing indigenous music.

Madosini, as she is affectionately known, is regarded as a national treasure for having taken traditional music beyond the borders of Africa through the use of instruments like the uhadi, isitolotolo and umrhubhe.

She  would have received her doctorate at a live ceremony in Makhanda in April, but due to Covid-19 the occasion took place virtually.

Madosini, 77, could barely contain her excitement when speaking about her achievement to the Dispatch.

“My mind and soul have been renewed. That is how happy I am to to hear that I am a doctor in music,” she said.

“I never went to school but here I am, speaking and educating through music. This is a true testament that music is a universal language.”

Madosini then started ululating in celebration.

“When I die, I want to leave a sustainable legacy through the music. I pray that it will live on much longer than me. Traditional and indigenous music speaks to priding oneself in heritage and culture. It is my hope that every woman, man and child will embrace the music,” she said.

Rhodes University spokesperson Velisile Bukula said the senate and council had felt it fitting to honour Madosini in recognition of her “sustained and exceptional contribution in the Xhosa culture, through the preservation and popularising of the isiXhosa musical bows uhadi and umrhubhe”.

“It is no exaggeration to suggest that she has single-handedly kept alive the South African heritage of traditional music through her performances and instruments such as uhadi, isitolotolo and umrhubhe,” Bukula said.

Even as a young girl, Madosini  played the instruments that ultimately would shape her life.

“She has also taught them in person to young musicians and has travelled extensively to share her world-class talent with international audiences, many of whom might never have any association with Xhosa people beyond Nelson Mandela,” Bukula said.

“Her commercial recordings are a brilliant mix of straight ceremonial pieces with little or no accompaniment, side-by-side with contemporary commercial musical elements. The Rhodes University community warmly congratulates isikhukukazi [the great one/the legend] on this notable achievement.”

Madosini overcame Covid-19 earlier this year.

“I am not ashamed to say that I lived to see the day. It was a very difficult time for my health but I was nursed back to life by the great staff at St Barnabas Hospital.

“Today I am able to sit here as a doctor in music and enjoy the beautiful response people have to indigenous music. I am truly grateful,” Madosini said.

Among her innumerable achievements, Madosini has collaborated and written songs with British rock singer Patrick Duff.

She has also collaborated with celebrated South African musicians like Thandiswa Mazwai, Ringo, and Derek Gripper, as well as famed Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil.

By Gugu Phandle – DispatchLIVE

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