Mbaqanga music group Soul Brothers’ guitarist Sicelo Ndlela dies

Legendary mbaqanga musical group the Soul Brothers are once again mourning the loss of one their longest serving members Sicelo Ndlela.

The KZN-born bass guitarist died on Wednesday afternoon after a long illness. He was 65.

The group, whose music is a mix of  mbaqanga/iscathamiya folk music genre, was formed in KwaZulu-Natal in the early 1970s. Its founders included drummer and lead vocalist  David Masondo, bassist Zakes Mchunu and guitarist Tuza Mthethwa. The three have since passed on. 

After moving to Joburg in 1974, the Soul Brothers were later joined by Moses “Black Mos” Ngwenya, a keyboardist from Soweto.

Ngwenya, who is now the sole leader of the group, said Ndlela was a protégé of Mchunu, who recommended him to the band alongside childhood friend Sikhumbuzo Mabaso, who played lead guitar.

“We made magic when we recorded our album titled Isicelo,” said Ngwenya.

Played in group’s many hit songs 

“Following the passing of Mchunu in 1984, Ndlela took over as the bassist for many of our hits like Bazobuya, Isigebengu, Sdudla Ukhalelani, Intombi Yami, Isigilamkhuba, Isithothibala, Hluphekile, Ukhetha Bani and many more until now.”

In 1985, he formed a group called Imitshotshovu with Bheki Ngcobo, popularly known as Ihhashi Elimhlophe in maskandi circles. He worked with Bongani Nxele, Sikhumbhuzo Mabaso and Japan Sidoyi.

They recorded over 15 albums together until they rebranded as Impumelelo following the passing of other members.

“He left an indelible mark in the industry,” said Ngwenya. 

Ndlela also offered his services to many musicians in other genres as a sessionist.

Ngema’s hit Stimela saseZola

Ngwenya said Ndlela also contributed in Mbongeni Ngema’s hit Stimela saseZola in 1985. He recalled how the late theatre icon, who died a week ago in a road accident, approached him at their recording studio in Soweto.

He described working with Ngema as a turning point for their record label Soul Brothers Records.

“What started like a joke for someone like Ngema, who never recorded an album before, turned out to be the greatest history of all time.

“That’s when Stimela saseZola was born. The album was the bomb; it opened many doors for us. Together with him we toured nationally and outside Mzansi’s borders.”

Backing vocalists

Also contributing on Stimela saseZola were backing vocalists like actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones, session artists Stella Khumalo and Mandisa Dlanga, whose services have been used by big acts like Stimela, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Johnny Clegg and Ringo.

Ndlela becomes the fifth Soul Brothers band member to pass away. Three years ago the group lost lead guitarist China “Mafuth’enkukhu” Masondo, who joined David Masondo, American Zulu, Tuza Mthethwa and Mchunu.

Ogandaganda base-Afrika, as the Soul Brothers were sometimes referred to, have produced more than 45 albums and sold more than 5 million copies.

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