Busisiwe “Busi” Victoria Mhlongo (1947 - )
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Busisiwe “Busi” Victoria Mhlongo
Ms Busisiwe Victoria Mhlongo, popularly known as Busi Mhlongo and an extremely talented and innovatively versatile Urban Zulu, was born in 1947 at Inanda near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Her songs continue to reverberate with such power of emotion and delivery. Ms Mhlongo was one of the most emotive singers South Africa has ever produced. She grew up in a caring extended family and began her singing career in choirs and concert groups while still at school.
After the world-famous King Kong production left for London together with its artists, new talent had to be sought in South Africa and so Ms Mhlongo was discovered by a Gallo Music talent scout. She swiftly moved to Johannesburg where she made recordings as Victoria Mhlongo. Her 1963 version of My boy lollipop became a national hit and her career started in earnest. She performed in musicals and became a soloist with several jazz groups, notably the Early Mabuza’s Big Five.
In 1968, Ms Mhlongo travelled to Lourenco Marques (Maputo) with Alfred Herberts’ African Follies. She so impressed some Portuguese musicians touring Mozambique that they invited her to join their band and return to Portugal with them, and that is how Busi Mhlongo left the African Follies and went to Lisbon.
In Portugal she fronted bands, sang in nightclubs and performed in musicals. She also worked in the United States and Canada and in 1972 moved to London to sing with the popular Afro-jazz band Osibisa.
A seasoned globetrotter by this time, Ms Mhlongo returned to South Africa in 1979 during an African tour with Ms Letta Mbuli. For much of the 1980s, Ms Mhlongo based herself in the Netherlands where she became the darling of a burgeoning “world music” au¬dience. However, the return of exiles and political prisoners in 1990 signalled also Ms Mhlongo’s own return to her home in KwaZulu-Natal. She formed a band with South African musicians called Twasa, which toured Holland and Belgium to great acclaim.
Ms. Mhlongo was considered by many to be a virtuoso singer, dancer and composer whose music defies categorisation. Drawing on various South African styles such as mbaqanga, maskandi, marabi and traditional Zulu music, fused with contemporary elements from jazz, funk, rock, gospel, rap, opera, reggae and West African music, she produced a fresh and exciting sound, complemented only by her spirited performances on stage. Her infectious music and singing style have a universal appeal and her lyrics carry powerful and poignant messages of social commentary.
Ms Mhlongo has worked and collaborated with other top African artists and the cream of African music in Mr Hugh Masekela, Dr Phillip Tabane, Mr Mabe Thobejane, and many legends making meticulously produced, melodic and modern South African music.
In 2000, Ms Mhlongo scooped three awards at the FNB South African Music Awards for Best Female Artist, Best Adult Contemporary Album (Africa), and Best African Pop Album. Ms Mhlongo has since also scored a Kora Award which is given annually for musical achievement in sub-Saharan Africa. The Musical Energy Loud Truth (Melt) has released a compilation, called Indiza with two new tracks produced by Brice Wassy and a series of remixes by Club 3.30.
The South African music benefit concert was held in October 2007 by the South African Broadcasting Corporation to honour and celebrate Ms Mhlongo’s birthday as well as to raise funds for her hospital bills. Her album Urban Zulu was a novel experience of traditional Zulu genre of Maskandi being expressed by a Zulu woman commercially to an international audience. Ms Mhlongo had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment when she died on 15 June 2010. She has left a lasting legacy in life as in music.
We are proud to honour Ms Busisiwe Victoria “Busi” Mhlongo with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for her outstanding and excellent contribution to the field of music.