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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

‘It doesn’t help being called a Dr, but I don’t have medical aid,’ Madala Kunene as funds are raised for surgery

The BackaBuddy campaign formed in Madala Kunene’s name for surgery has accumulated over a R100 000 in less than a week.

Despite his gratitude for how a BackaBuddy campaign formed in his name for surgery has already accumulated over a R100 000 in less than a week, veteran muso Madala Kunene has bemoaned the lack of support for artists.

“We [legends] don’t get hired anymore. They only book DJs, amapiano artists and the gqom guys. It’s very quiet on our side… I can’t even properly take care of myself,” Kunene told The Citizen.

The 72-year-old singer has been in the music industry for at least 50 years creating African blues music that has touched countless listeners, at home and abroad.

Last year, Kunene received an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal for his contribution to the development of indigenous music and his contribution to the music of Africa and that of the world.

“It doesn’t help being called a Dr, but I don’t have medical aid,” said Kunene.

“I’m sure Chiefs and Pirates players have medical aid and other support because they’re professionals. Artists don’t have medical aid and we’re also professionals as well. It needs to show that we’re legends.”

Having spent 18 days at two hospitals, Kunene returned home on the first Wednesday of April, a day after the BackaBuddy campaign was launched by fellow muso, Guy Buttery.

“We as a community have come together to appeal for your support to allow Madala to cut that waiting list and have surgery at a private hospital. All proceeds raised from this campaign will go to Madala and will assist him in paying for these medical expenses, healthy food and general living costs,” read the statement of the campaign.

The campaign’s target is R185 000 and at the time of publishing had gathered R121 700.

A number of artists have shown their support for the campaign to quickly reach its target. Buttery wasn’t available for comment at the time of publishing.

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Madala Kunene − a loved legend

“My daughter lost her job during Covid and hasn’t been able to get any employment since and my son is also unemployed and looking for work,” Kunene told The Citizen while at his home in Hillary, in Durban.

“I’m happy and grateful for the support shown to me. People love me and I appreciate that,” averred the muso who has worked with the likes of Sjava, Msaki and Maphorisa.

“Msaki came to see me a few days ago. Black Coffee gave me a call while in Colombia, en route to Canada. Nduduzo Makhathini said he’ll come see me when he returns from Europe,” said the artist affectionately known as Bafo.

“People like Nathi [Black Coffee] even said maybe this public funds thing wasn’t needed, that it could’ve been done privately,” said Kunene.

In October last year, Department of Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa inducted Kunene as the sixth legend in the Van Toeka Af Living Legends Recognition Series.

Previous honourees include Dr Pitika Ntuli, Dr James Matthews, Dr Peter Magubane, the late Dr Madosini Mpahleni and Dr John Kani.

“The sad thing is that when you’re gone, your music starts getting played a lot. It’s painful being an artist.”

According to the Ubombo singer, Kodwa had made plans to come and see him just after returning from hospital.

“He was planning on coming here from Richards Bay where he was attending a funeral. But he later called to say he can’t make it here, but promised that he will assist with medical costs,” Kunene said.

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Time to heal

Kunene first spent eight days at King Edward VIII Hospital and then 10 more days at St Aidan’s Mission Regional Hospital.

Kunene is billed to perform at international music convention WOMEX in Manchester later this year but the muso averred that he will need time post-surgery.

“I love travelling abroad − that is where I get to do my work properly. But I don’t have the strength to travel overseas. I’ll need time to recover even after the surgery… I won’t rush overseas because I don’t want to chase after money.”

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