Acclaimed composer Prof Mzilikazi Khumalo passes away aged 89

Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo was part of the committee that amalgamated the 'Nkosi Sikelel' Afrika' prayer with 'Die Stem' to form the post-apartheid South African national anthem.

Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo. Picture: Samroscores.co.za

JOHANNESBURG - One of South Africa's revered choral music composers and conductors, Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo, passed on Tuesday morning at the age of 89.

Mzilikazi was part of the committee that amalgamated the Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika prayer with Die Stem to form the post-apartheid South African national anthem.

A close relative of Professor Khumalo confirmed his passing and said that the beloved classical music conductor and composer hadn’t been well for some time.

In addition to being on the committee that created democratic South Africa's new national anthem, Prof Khumalo also helped put together the first Zulu opera, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu. It was an opera showcasing the work written by the princess, who was also the mother of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The late Sibongile Khumalo released an album in 2005 which included music from that opera.

Khumalo, popular classical music conductor Richard Cock and another classical music conductor from Mabopane, Danny Pooe, were the brains behind what used to be the Mass Choir Festival. It became the biggest choral music, but it never lasted. It was broadcast live on SABC TV.

A staunch Christian, Khumalo was born on 20 June 1932 to parents who were in the Salvation Army ministries. Most of his music was in isiZulu and having lived in rural KwaZulu-Natal, his compositions reflected his religion and Zulu tradition.

Professor Khumalo's first composition, which premiered in the late 1950s, was titled Mangificwa ukufa, which literally means “When death is upon me”, was one of the prescribed music pieces for the biggest choral music festival in South Africa recently.

Mangificwa Ukufa was a poem by Dr Benedict Wallet Vilakazi, who was born on 6 January 1906 in Groutville. He died in 1947 and was hailed as the “Father of Nguni Literature”. Khumalo later arranged the poem into a song in 1960 at the age of 20.

But his first composition wasn’t his most famous work. There’s an oratorio called Ushaka ka Senzangkhona which depicts the life of Zulu king, Shaka. The Gauteng Choristers, a choir formed in the late 1990s, performed the work in March 2015, with the late Sibongile Khumalo as one of the soloists.

Khumalo's music continues to feature prominently in music festivals and competitions in the country and abroad.

WATCH: UShaka by the Gauteng Choristers

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