Our fourth edited extract from the Imbokodo – Women Who Shape Us series, written by Athambile Masola and Xolisa Guzula, tells us about the musician Madosini Latozi Mpahleni, an expert in making and playing a traditional mouth bow, a bow with a calabash resonator and the Jew’s harp.  This extract comes from the book in the series entitled “10 Inspiring singers, writers, and artists”.

Madosini is a South African musician, an expert and elder in Mpondomise music, a music teacher, and a storyteller. She was born in 1943 in Mqhekezweni village in Mthatha. 

Her mother taught her how to play and make traditional musical instruments, playing songs she heard at community events. She only speaks isiXhosa and cannot read or write as she never attended school. Despite not having a formal education, she has become a famous musician across the world.

Madosini is a living library that preserves indigenous music, music instruments, knowledge, and stories

Her public music career started when a team of filmmakers, who were accompanied by the late Victor Ntoni, visited Libode to shoot a movie called MaXhosa. The team was impressed by her music and she ended up performing solo, on six tracks of the MaXhosa music album in 1975.

In 1995, she was invited by Dizu Plaatjies of AmaMpondo traditional music group and Mzwandile Qotoyi to work with them. This is how Madosini moved to Cape Town to live in Langa, where she still lives today.

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Tell us: Are you able to play a traditional instrument, or do you know someone who plays one?