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Nontsomi Mildred Mangxolo (1944 - )

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Nontsomi Mildred Mangxolo (1944 - ) Awarded for:
Outstanding contributions in traditional music.

Profile of Nontsomi Mildred Mangxolo

Nontsomi Mildred Mangxola was born on 9 January 1944 in Benoni and was educated at Ntsikane Primary School. She loved singing from an early age, and in her teens joined a group called the Daveyton Queens. In 1964, she joined the Mahotella Queens, the vocal backing group for the band of Soweto’s renowned Simon “Mahlathini’ Nkabinde. It was the start of a musical journey which, four decades later, shows no sign of nearing its end.

The Mahotella Queens were far more than merely Nkabinde's choir. Their dance steps were highly inventive and one-of-a-kind, and their music was unique, colourful and very South African, yet universal in its appeal. By the mid-1970s the “mbaqanga’ they pioneered was well-established and the Mahotella Queens were well on their way to becoming a legend, both on the South African music scene and abroad.

Then, at the height of their fame, the Mahotella Queens decided to disband to enable the band members to have an opportunity to pursue their ordinary lives outside the band. But in 1984 the group re-formed, its backbone being three of the original Queens – Mangxola, Nobesuthu Getrude Mbadu and Hilda Tloubatla.

Pop music had changed drastically in their absence, with soul and disco music coming to the fore. But the older township styles came back into vogue, however; and the Mahotella Queens made the most of the opportunity with their ageless classical sound, which they have always retained.

Reunited with their old comrades, Mahlathini and composer-conductor-musician West Nkosi and his band, set off on a long series of international tours which brought them added fame, particularly after they recorded a song called “Kazet’ while in Paris, which became an international hit. In later years they continued to tour and produce their special brand of spell-binding and very South African music with its undying appeal to generations of fans, both in their own country and abroad.

Three of the great names in the group - Simon Nkabinde, West Nkosi and guitarist Marks Mankwane – died on the eve of the new millennium. The Queens went into deep mourning, then resolutely took up the challenges of the future, formed a new band and set off on the next stage of their march into posterity, more than 40 years after they had delighted their first audience in Johannesburg’s townships.

Music has brought great benefits to Nontsomi Mildred Mangxola in her lifetime. In the early stages of her career, her modest earnings helped to support her family after her mother's premature death. Later, music was to be the inspiration for her to take time out for the “normal’ things in life, and it brought her enduring fame.

She is blessed with an abundance of musical talent and she has always made the most of her gift, setting an enduring example for other South Africans in all walks of life.