Soul Brothers frontman David Masondo dies

David Masondo, lead singer of the legendary Soul Brothers, has passed away. Masondo died at the Garden City Hospital in Mayfair, Johannesburg on Sunday 5 July. He was 67 years old.

RIP: Soul Brothers singer David Masondo.
RIP: Soul Brothers singer David Masondo.

The group’s manager Welcome Bhodloza Nzimande confirmed the incident on Sunday, saying the band is still in shock. Nzimande told Daily Sun: “We are shocked and saddened by the news of David’s death. We didn’t expect it so soon… His death has left a void in the mbaqanga music scene. He was one of the pioneers of the genre. May his soul rest in peace.”

David Masondo was born in Hammarsdale in Durban in 1950. He started with the Groovy Boys before co-founding the Soul Brothers in the mid-70s, initially as the group’s drummer before becoming the group’s lead vocalist and the face of the band for the next four decades.

Masondo had apparently been rushed to hospital suffering from fatigue following a live performance on 20 June at Central Stadium in Uitenhage, Nelson Mandela Bay. At the time the band's management told Drum: "Age is not on his side, running around a lot during a performance is not good for him… After the performances he was weak and tired so we took him to hospital."

Tributes are pouring in for the singer, affectionately known as ‘Mdavu’.  Masondo’s death was announced by his band on their Facebook group. “It is very sad to announce that the main man, the anchor man, the lead singer of our band, has passed on today at the age of 67,” they wrote. “Rest in peace Mdavu mfo ka Masondo.”

Soul Brothers keyboardist Moses Ngwenya said he was shocked by the news and had lost a brother and a friend in the music industry.

Friend and fellow musician Abigail Khubeka told Eyewitness News: “We’ve lost a great artist, musician, a leader in the music industry. He was one of the people who created an African music style. He was part of the people that changed African music, so called mbaqanga - they gave it a different sound.” 

The Southern African Music Rights Association (SAMRO) issued the following message on their Facebook page: “We are saddened by the passing of the legendary Soul Brothers lead singer, David Masondo. The mbaqanga artist died this afternoon (Sunday, 05 July 2015) at the Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg. Condolences to his family, friends and partners in music. May his soul rest in peace.”

Formed in KwaZulu-Natal in the mid-1970s, the Soul Brothers have remained the most successful proponents of the mbaqanga sound that has long dominated South African urban music. Their sound was initially built around the rhythm section of bassist Zenzele ‘Zakes’ Mchunu, drummer David Masondo and guitarist Tuza Mthethwa, who first played together in the Groovy Boys in Kwazulu-Natal, and later in the Young Brothers.  

After moving to Johannesburg in the late 1970s, keyboardist Moses Ngwenya joined to create the Soul Brothers, and Masondo made the move from drums to lead vocals. The combination of Masondo’s quavering soprano voice and Ngwenya’s percussive organ playing gave the Soul Brothers a unique and instantly recognizable sound, augmented with a brass section, guitars, vocal harmonies and dancers. The Soul Brothers toured the UK and Europe in 1990 on their first international tour. They have released more than 35 albums over the years, reportedly selling over three million copies worldwide, making them one of Southern Africa’s biggest selling and most enduring music groups. Their most recent albums are Isiphithiphithi (2012) and Vika (2013). They have also long operated their own successful recording, publishing and entertainment companies.

At the time of his death, the Soul Brothers were reportedly busy in studio recording their 39th album, which would have included collaborations with fellow South African legends Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Steve Kekana and Ihashi Elimhlophe.

Mthethwa passed away in 1979 and Mchunu in 1984. Another founding member of the band, Themba American Zulu, died in 1988. Now the last remaining member of the original line-up, Ngwenya himself was in the news recently after being shot in the hand following an attempted hijacking in Johannebsurg.

As for what the future holds for the legendary group, manager Nzimande told eNCA: “We are going to put our heads together and try to see how we can move on as a band. We need to take the right decision about the Soul Brothers. It won’t be the same without Masondo. He has left an indelible mark in the traditional music landscape.”

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