Renowned musician, composer, choreographer, and playwright Mbongeni Ngema has tragically passed away at the age of 68. The Ngema family confirmed the news in a statement, revealing that the prolific artist was involved in a fatal head-on collision while returning from a funeral in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved brother, father, husband, and patriot, Mbongeni Ngema. He was a passenger in the vehicle,” the family’s statement expressed.
Born in 1955 in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, Ngema embarked on his career as a theatre backing guitarist. Notably, he wrote the acclaimed musicals Sarafina! and co-wrote Woza Albert!, both of which garnered numerous awards. Ngema’s musical talents extended to hit songs, including the well-known Stimela sa se Zola.
The 1992 hit movie Sarafina! brought international recognition to Ngema’s work, being a musical drama based on his 1987 musical of the same name. Co-written by Ngema, the film starred Hollywood icon Whoopi Goldberg and Leleti Khumalo.
The Ngema family expressed devastation over his sudden passing and promised to share details about his funeral soon.
In 2018, Ngema spoke joyfully about his legacy and the lasting impact of his work. He played a vital role in discovering and mentoring many South African actors who have since become household names in the entertainment industry.
Addressing the younger generation of artists, Ngema voiced his frustration, stating, “What frustrates me the most is that young artists don’t want to learn from us who have been in this industry for a while. I remember when I started out, I learnt so much from Gibson Kente. I decided to go live at his house to learn how he wrote music and everything about him. I don’t see enough young people wanting to learn. I feel like the thirst to learn is lacking in today’s generation.”
Ngema’s legacy, marked by his impactful contributions to theater, music, and film, will undoubtedly endure, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.