KZN born composer and cellist, Dr Thokozani Mhlambi, returns home for performance

  • 27 May 2022
  • KZNSA, Live Music, Playdate

As part of the Africa Month celebrations, Dr Thokozani Mhlambi returns to his roots in KwaZulu-Natal to perform at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban.

Mhlambi is known for incorporating art with music, having held an artistic residency at the prestigious Cite International des Arts in Paris France, and having his music used as a soundtrack for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In this intimate concert, Mhlambi presents a set of Zulu songs, performed on cello and voice. He will be joined on stage by leading young voices in the music scene.

The music to be presented on Friday 27 May represents Mhlambi's growing body of work in the ancient African idiom. It fuses elements of the old and the new, through the use of vocal melodies reminiscent of amahubo together with electronic music, experimental soundscapes and western classical music elements.

The concert is also a pause for reflection: on the great archive of early African intellectuals who composed music for ensembles, choirs and the wider public at-large. Most of whom were schooled in places like Ohlange, Marianhill, Adams College in KwaZulu-Natal-Natal, and others in the Eastern Cape.

In 2021, Mhlambi contributed a sound piece called 'Playing with Tape; as part of a group exhibition “Here History Began. Tracing the REverberations of Halim El-dabh,” which took place at the Savvy Contemporary in Berlin. The piece was composed from a soundscape of the Durban beachfront. 

Mhlambi presents a multi-disciplinary program; combining aspects of storytelling, opera voice, jazz rhythms and African song. Durban audiences can expect a treat with cast consisting some of the most refreshing musical voices in the country today, with Mhlambi accompanying himself on the baroque cello and soul-drenching Zulu song.

The concert comes after an intensive research trip Mhlambi has been conducting over the past few months, both in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Mhlambi has been visiting museums and archives across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal-Natal. He has been researching the genius of early African intellectuals who composed music. The likes of Reuben Caluza, BP Tyamzashe, and Enoch Sontonga (composer of Nkosi Sikelela), to mention a few.

Mhlambi concludes his activities in the region through a musical concert, which will draw from this rich archive of African composers. 

The music to be rendered includes: ‘Plea for Africa’ by John Knox Bokwe, ‘Lizalise idinga Lakho’ by Tiyo Soga.

“Obviously, during the pandemic, most artists had more time for themselves than for their audiences. This gave me a chance to go deeper in my art. I hope audiences relate to my new sound. It's not so different, but the post-pandemic atmosphere gives the music a fresh breath,” said Mhlambi.

Some of Mhlambi’s new works will be showcased. Such as Inkenqe, which was created as part of the Five Hundred Year Digital archive project at UCT. The project commissioned the work from Mhlambi to go together with its podcast on William Gqoba (Xhosa literary intellectual), and Gqoba’s views on the Nonqawuse cattle-killing of the 19th century.

The program is exciting and offers something for the whole family.



Date: Friday 27 May 2022

Venue: KZNSA Gallery, 166 Bulwer Road (Glenwood)

Tickets: Via or at the door

Price: R100 each

For more details about Thokozani, check out his Facebook: and Instagram:





● Dr Thokozani Mhlambi is not your usual musician. Not only does he play the cello, sing and compose his songs, but Mhlambi uses his art and exhibitions to convey African stories/philosophies.

● Born in Madadeni, KwaZulu-Natal, after fulfilling music studies in South Africa & Sweden, Mhlambi received his PhD in Music at the University of Cape Town. In South Africa, he has showcased work at leading platforms such as the National Arts Festival, Baxter Theatre, Soweto Theatre and the State Theatre in Pretoria—where he drew audiences from all walks of life. He has also been a visiting lecturer at universities in Finland (Jyvaskyla), Brazil, to mention a few. And has had opportunities to perform and speak in places such as New Orleans (Tulane), São Paulo, Maputo (Mozambique), New York and Vancouver (Canada).

● Recently, Mhlambi’s rendition of Lizalise Idinga Lakho by Tiyo Soga (from his debut album Zulu Song Cycle), was featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mhlambi was an invited contributor to the roaming academy of the Dutch Art Institute, an itinerant program fostering a variety of creative practices at the intersection of art & theory. In 2019, he collaborated with revered Chinese visual artist Dachan, in a live performance/installation at the Zeitz Mocca Museum in Cape Town.

● In 2020, Mhlambi was selected as an Artist-in-Residence at Cite International Des Arts in Paris, supported by the Institut Français. He used the time to connect with artists from different parts of the world, and more specifically the African continent, and to develop new creative work.

● As a Fellow in Archive & Public Culture at the University of Cape Town (UCT), his research interest are in the archive of ‘early African Intellectuals as Composers’, which includes the likes of Enoch Sontonga, John & Nokutela Dube, Reuben Caluza, to mention a few.

Share on social media

Gallery   Tues–Fri 09.00-17.00 | Sat 09.00-16.00 | Sun 09.00-15.00

Café   Tues - Fri 08.00-17.00 | Sat 08.00-16.00 | Sun 09.00-15.00

Shop   Tues–Fri 09.00-17.00 | Sat 09.00-16.00 | Sun 09.00-15.00