Princess Magogo

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Zulu Princess, musician and poet who contributed to the development of traditional music in South Africa and was an authority on Zulu traditions, history and folklore. Her son is Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Chief Mangosuthu

First name: 
Middle name: 
Sibilile Mantithi Ngangezinye ka
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
Date of death: 

Princess Magogo was born in 1900, the daughter of the Zulu King, Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (1868 – 1913) and Queen Silomo. In 1926 she married King Mathole Buthelezi.

Princess Magogo composed Zulu classical music and was gifted in playing the ugubhu, (a stringed bow and a calabash instrument) and the isithontolo (a musical instrument which is like a bow which has a string bound down to the middle of the bow) and was also a singer and poet.

Despite being raised in a culture traditionally oppressive to women the Princess continued developing her musical career after getting married. This enabled her to contribute in the development of traditional music. Through the training of many young singers she made an unprecedented contribution to the preservation of traditional music and became an authority Zulu music and on traditions, history and folklore. So much so that she was often consulted by experts in these fields e.g. Jake Frige, Peter Becker, Jack Grossert, Eileen Krige and John Blacking. She was also visited by musicologists from abroad, like David Rycroft from the school of African and Oriental studies in London, and Henry Weman, organist at Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.

For several years, Hugh Tracy, director of the International Library of African music at Rhodes University (Grahamstown, SA), regularly consulted her and recorded some of her music. He helped her career gain momentum in 1939 with a recording of some of her performances. By making public appearances the Princess broke with Zulu custom, maintaining her dedication to music.

By the 1950s, her music was widely recorded and played by the South African Broadcasting Cooperation (SABC), Rycroft and West German Radio. These recordings afforded Princess Magogo an international audience and recognition. Her work was made largely from existing Zulu songs and folktales, and she extended them into music accompanied by the ugubhu.

Princess Magogo died on 21 November 1984. In December 2003 she was posthumously awarded the South African National Order of Ikhamanga in Gold for a life of prolific musical composition, and an outstanding contribution to the preservation and development of traditional music in South Africa.

• Mahatey, N. (2004). Highest Honour: South African National Orders. Pretoria: Chancery of Orders, The Presidency, p. 102.
• Human Sciences Research Council Group (ed) (2000). Women Marching Into the 21st Century: Wathint\' Abafazi, Wathint\' Imbokodo [online]. Available at: [Accessed on 26 January 2009]

Last updated : 21-Sep-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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