By Thobile Hans
South African music lovers, football fans and politicians celebrated the life of music maestro Robbie Malinga with songs, dance, fond memories and a lot of laughter, at his memorial service at Grace Bible Church in Soweto. Malinga, who died at age 47 on Christmas Day after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, was in the presence of his family.
“On the day of his passing, he didn’t pass away until everyone was present. We had lunch as a family for the first time. Robbie passed away peacefully in the presence of everyone. He prophesied his passing,” says Peter Modubu, his father-in-law.
Malinga’s younger sister, Nomsa Malinga, described him as a selfless brother who was a father figure to his siblings. Nomsa told hundreds of people who came to celebrate the life of her brother that he was fond of struggle songs when they were teenagers. The sentiment was reiterated by Malinga’s peers from kwaito band Trompies.
Nomsa recited Malinga’s favourite poem that she said he loved when they were growing up in Meadowlands, Soweto. The poem entitled Khala Zome Mtaka Mama (a dead brother’s ode to his sibling) was a befitting tribute to Malinga.
Speaker after speaker reiterated that Malinga was humble, witty, all-rounded musician and producer, fun loving and snazzy dresser who took the mickey out of people lacked a sense of style.
Shadrack Ndlovu, was one of the early career colleagues of Malinga circa 1994, who spoke emotionally about Malinga’s hunger for success when they started a band together. It was not an easy journey, but Ndlovu worked with Malinga to produce his first hit Intsimbi in 1996. The name Ntsimbi stuck with Malinga throughout his over two decades music career.
“Madala, I refuse to be defeated because I have a gift in music,” Ndlovu recalls Malinga’s words when things were not going their way.
Malinga’s role models, Lebo M and Chico Twala, were among the mourners.
“We have a very big loss in the business. I have done some work with Robbie. He was a very talented producer and songwriter. It has been depressing and a great loss, he was too young. He’s gone too soon but he leaves a great legacy. He was responsible for a lot of great work,” says Lebo M.
Lebo M, famous for producing The Lion King and other musicals, took Malinga under his wing and introduced him to the world stage in New York.
Kabelo Mabalane, a musician and actor, was the master of ceremony for the day. Mabalane of defunct TKZ, says he learnt a great deal from Malinga who turned him into “a lion that never gave up in life”.
Tributes poured from politicians and fellow musicians. Sifiso Fakude, one of many musicians Malinga discovered, was full of praises of his mentor.
“Robbie’s legacy is not going to die with him, the remaining artists will make sure it continues,” says Fakude who claimed to be Malinga’s first afro-pop protégé.
In 2015, Malinga formed his own record company Robbie Malinga Entertainment (RME) which helped the likes of Zahara and Musa Sukwene, the Idols 2013 winner, becoming household names in South Africa. The artists set the memorial service on fire serenading the animated crowd with their songs featuring Malinga – Musa sang Mthande and Sahara Bengirong.
Sibusiso DJ Sbu Leope, who worked with Malinga at TS Records, was full of praises for Malinga.
“Robbie was one of the greatest music producers in the continent. He knew how to identify and discover talent. He even won ‘Clash of the Choirs’ with a bunch of youngsters and made them superstars. Robbie knew how to evolve with the times. He is the greatest producer this country has ever seen,” Leope says.
President of the South African Music Industry Council, Eugene Mthethwa, who first heard about the passing of Malinga from a television station when he called for comment on Christmas Day, bemoaned the treatment Malinga received when he was sick.
“I saw a Facebook post that said Robbie had died a week before he actually died which actually saddened me. My plea to the public; we are human beings, we might be glamorous, we might be seen on television. If they could be sensitive to the issues that we go through, it is the same things they go through themselves. We are not from a different planet. We are human too,” says Mthethwa.
Malinga was a staunch supporter of Orlando Pirates, the oldest Premier Soccer League club in South Africa. When Orlando Pirates former spokesman, Mickey Modisane, paid tribute, the club’s fans joined him on the stage singing Yiyo Le Ibhakaniya, a song produced by Malinga for the club. The song became the club’s lucky charm which helped them achieve two trebles.
The love and respect Malinga had for his fans and friends was reciprocated to him and his family.