Uncovering the history behind icon Busi Mhlongo: a Webinar Review

By Phethagatso Motumi

What stays with us after a musician has passed?  Celebrating the life of the late, great Busi Mhlongo – Brenda Sisane facilitated a conversation with Thandiswa Mazwai, Mfana Mlambo, Xolisa Dlamini and Zoë Modiga as guests, which answered in a way that spoke volumes to tradition and musicianship.

When reminiscing on the life and time of Busi Mhlongo through the webinar hosted  by Brenda Sisane, featuring a panel made up of Thandiswa Mazwai, Mfana Mlambo, Xolisa Dlamini and Zoë Modiga as guests, one thing stood out. There are people who know artists in person and those who know them through their music yet both carry an intimacy that can stay with you for a lifetime.

Painting her character through anecdotes, I now know that Busi Mhlongo, affectionately known as Mam’Busi, was warm. Had a gift of making everyone feel welcome. Was someone who laughed unrestrained with a hi-5 to solidify a joke. Cooked in abundance, especially fish and chicken, because she knew breaking bread brought people together. Was in touch with her spiritual self. Both undeniably cool and effortlessly stylish, like the glasses she hardly left the house without and the intricately beaded outfits she wore on stage. And, she told stories in a way that opened you up to her world.

As the facilitator of the webinar, Kaya’s The Art of Sunday host Brenda Sisane highlighted the importance of music being a language of the masses. “Busi Mhlongo chose to be conscious, this is why she left a powerful impression.” By making us reflect not only on what we listen to but how we listen to music, Brenda led a robust conversation that began with introductions to Mam’Busi and ended in song.

Affectionately called ‘munthuza’ by the mother figure, the amazing vocalist Xolisa Dlamini looked back on meeting Mam’Busi as a student. It became a masterclass. “She had a way of teaching even though she never went to [music] school. It was being in her presence, walking with her,” Xolisa says. Often left in awe wondering how Mam’Busi sang the powerful way she did, Xolisa recalls it was a product of indalo, of nature. “She would tell me to just listen to the trees, the waves, the animals since they were the first instrument.” Mam’Busi’s unwavering faith in her ability made her a better singer, “Her belief that I could do it, made me believe that I could.”

For the magnetic Thandiswa Mazwai, Busi Mhlongo belonged to a generation of artists – like Hugh Masekela, Dorothy Masuka, Miriam Makeba and more – who didn’t take themselves seriously. “They didn’t just give music. They gave hugs, they gave love.” Meeting Mam’Busi for a gig, the two became fast friends. She got to see her in her element in a way that felt ethereal, ‘like getting into church’. Mazwai notes it as the reason she chose to create sacred spaces on stage. “It’s not just burning impepo,” Mazwai said, “it’s shifting spaces so something beautiful and spiritual can happen.” Bearing witness to both, it’s easy to see how performances can feel cathartic.

Jazz musician and longtime friend Mfana Mlambo, agreed. “People would cry when she sang, she was that kind of person.” For him, Busi Mlongo’s contribution felt so much bigger than we realise. “She has so many phases, so many levels.” From using her pen to write on her life experience, consciously making her art her activism, to becoming the Queen of Maskanda. Mlambo’s hope is that Mam’Busi’s legacy sparks an active approach to sharing the history of African music. A sentiment that songstress Zoë Modiga agrees with.

Introduced to Mam’Busi after being asked to perform at her tribute concert, Zoë Modiga remembers feeling unknowledgeable before then. Doing a deep dive to explore the music was where she began. “It felt like sitting at her feet through stories, even though I haven’t in real life,” Zoë says. For her, Mam’Busi’s music felt like finally having context to a part of her identity. “She married being masterful with feeling, very few people can do both.”

As the conversation drew to a close, they all praised Busi Mhlongo’s technique and vocal prowess, the poetry in her life’s work, the respect she gave heritage and the magic in how she could put music together. There was a call for her musicianship to become the start of decolonising music education. Listening to her craft, interrogating the state of our nation 44 years after June 16 1976, I can’t help but wholeheartedly agree.


    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    More Articles
    Receive the latest news

    Subscribe To Our Newsletter



    Copyright Notice


    1.1 The contents of this Website, including but not limited to its compilation and arrangement, is the exclusive property of Kaya 959, alternatively the suppliers of content to Kaya 959, and accordingly remain protected by South African and International Copyright and Trademark laws.

    1.2 Any person accessing this Website, may not, save for downloading one copy for their personal computers and solely for their private and non-commercial use :

    1.2.1 Copy, disseminate, distribute, advertise, publish, adapt, modify or in any way reproduce the contents of this website for commercial purposes, unless this notice and any disclaimer attached thereto is published in its entirety, or unless the permission of Kaya 959 is obtained in writing.

    Privacy Policy


    POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.


    • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
    • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
    • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;


    • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;


    • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
    1. Definitions and Interpretation

    1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

    1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

    1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

    1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

    1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL www.kaya959.co.za or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

    1. Status and Amendments

    2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

    2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

    2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

    1. Processing of Personal Information

    3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

    3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

    3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
    collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

    3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

    3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

    3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

    3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

    3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

    1. Collection of anonymous data

    4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

    4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

    4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

    4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: The browser software used; IP address; Date and time of activities while visiting the website; URLs of internal pages visited; and referrers. 

    4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

    1. Security

    5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

    1. Links to other websites

    6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

    1. Queries

    7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected] 

    Competition Terms and Conditions

    • The competitions are open to all persons over the age of 18 years; except directors, partners, employees, agents, service providers, and consultants of Kaya 959, the sponsor and all its subsidiaries and its holding company, if any, as well as all spouses, life partners, parents, children, siblings, business partners and associates of such persons.

    • The outcome of the competition is subject to the decision of the judge/presenter, whose decision is final and no negotiation will be entered into thereafter. Neither Kaya 959, sponsors nor their agents will be held responsible or answerable to any dispute arising from the competition or prize awards.

    • Participants/listeners enter or take part in competitions at their own risk and Kaya 959 bears no responsibility for any loss, damage or harm suffered as a result of participation in any of Kaya 959 competition.

    • One listener is entitled to winning one prize in a period of 3 months. Kaya 959 reserves the right not to award a prize if the listener has won a prize prior during the 3 month window period. This also applies to listeners who provide family or friend’s contact details.

    • Kaya 959 reserves the right to redistribute all unclaimed prizes if not claimed after 3 months after being given away On Air or on the website.

    • Prizes are not transferable and may not be exchanged for cash.

    • Finalists will forfeit their participation in the competition if they fail to attend the draws.

    • The competition will run during the period advertised on Kaya 959; entries received outside of the competition period will not be considered for the competition draw.

    • Kaya 959 and their sponsors reserve the right to cancel, modify or amend the competition at any time if deemed necessary in their opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of their control.

    • By entering the competition, entrants agree to accept these rules and to be bound by them.