By Nomali Cele
On Christmas Day, 2017, it was announced that producer and musician extraordinaire, Robbie Malinga passed away. In the media statement, Malinga is said to have passed away in the company of his immediate family and loved ones. With the amount of love he inspired, it’s comforting that he was surrounded by just as much love in his final moments.
Robbie Malinga was born in Soweto and grew up in Meadowlands in Soweto. At the time, Meadowlands was still the cultural hub of the province, with many residents having been a product of Sophitown. In an interview, Robbie Malinga mentioned being surrounded by people such as Chicco Twala, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and prominent football stars.
In the time since his passing, many have mentioned Malinga’s amazing sense of humour and general ability to make others feel good. In a recent radio interview, he humorously spoke about only joining the struggle through a student union in the 1980s because he thought they sang well. Mentioning the struggle for free education at the end
“It’s always been my dream to set trends, not to follow.” – Robbie Malinga
Robbie Malinga was a trained musician, having spent the bulk of the early 1990s studying music at college in Roodepoort. His first professional foray into music came as a session musician for Blondie Makhene and Freddie Gwala, whom he’d met through being a pianist at church, and the group Platform One. In 1998, he released his earliest music – his most popular song being the kwaito song “Intsimbi.”
Robbie Malinga’s musical evolution was something that was fitting of the South African context. In his lifetime, he worked with gospel artists, Afro-soul artists and kwaito artists. His impact shaped the sounds of artists as varied as Brown Dash and Kabelo, Lundi and Ntando and, most recently Naima Kay, Zahara and Musa. This is not mentioning the hit music he produced for himself.
Robbie Malinga and Musa
Robbie Malinga’s musical passion seemed to lie in Afro-pop and Afro-soul, and an afro-pop ballad was nothing without that Malinga touch. His touch was the Midas. When producing and working with Zahara, Robbie Malinga was part of creating music that not only sold well but turned the tide in South Africa’s consumption patterns. From a house-driven radio play and buying patterns to a guitar-backed album filled with ballads being the biggest seller in the country in years.
Speaking after the passing of Robbie Malinga, Kaya 959 MD, Greg Maloka said, “There’s a big argument about who started it [afro-pop] in my books, Robbie Malinga is one of those people who right at the beginning believed in the genre.” Maloka added “I’ll also remember him, not only for being a wicked music writer and a great producer but an incredibly funny guy. Robbie was funny as hell.”
Above his technical prowess and the fact that he was musically gifted, Robbie Malinga’s special touch was that he understood what the South African music audience wants. Whether kwaito or afro-soul, the people want to sing along to the music and thanks to Robbie Malinga, we did.
When he felt that he was on the road to recovery, he spoke out about being anaemic after spending most of the year being in and out of the hospital and being away from the music. Robbie Malinga is survived by his wife and children.