Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Correspondent
WHILE his music has stood the test of time, the life of Ndux Malax, like the life many other musicians from Matabeleland, remains a closed book.
While fans know everything there’s to know about Ndux Malax the musician, few have a clue about Ndux Malax the man.
Having had his prime in the era before social media, in era in which fans barely interacted with stars they idolised, the life and times of Ndux Malax remain largely a closed chapter. Beyond the studio, few have a clue about the man whose songs they love so dearly was.
Even among those that were close to him, Ndux Malax was a mystery. It is perhaps for this reason that in death, he has become different things to different people. His sister, Sikhangezile Ncube remembers a man who was initially shunned by a Kezi community that felt that his guitars would have undue influence on children and would lead them down the same path he had taken.
His son, Ndux Jnr, only remembers a strict man who wanted things done by the book. As a musician, he has realised that his father’s shadow will always stalk him. The colourful dancer, Themba “Boyoyo” Mathe remembers a tight fisted boss who had trouble parting with a penny. Sunday Life spoke to these three people at length and tried to unravel the life of the legend.
Sikhangezile Ncube (sister)
He was born Nduna Malaba in Kezi in Malaba under Chief Malaba. That’s where he was born. When he was 22 or 23, I wasn’t born at this time, he went to went to live with our maternal grandfather. He only came back when he was a grown men and was about to leave for Botswana. That’s where he went to work. I think this was around 1971. He worked there until 1979.
When he was in Botswana that’s when he started doing music but he was not really doing it professionally. He was just doing it to entertain people wherever he could. Then he came back and he formed a band that he called the Stone Sound Band. The band name came from the person that was sponsoring him at the time and I’m not sure how long he stayed with that band name.
He then changed the band name to the one he wanted which was the Tahangana Band. That’s the name that he stuck to from 1982 up to his death.
Most people don’t know that he attended a primary school in Kezi but never went to secondary school. This was because of the war and because he was older when the war ended he did not get a chance to go to school again.
He was very helpful. Everyone could turn to him. He was someone who was very helpful to his community both in the rural areas where we come from and here in the urban areas.
He made us royalty. Wherever I go, if I mention my surname people ask if I’m Ndux’s sister their treatment of me changes. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Nkayi and Filabusi. I’m appreciated the same way. He elevated us as a family.
Our parents did not want him to become musicians. Some of the herdsmen and elders felt that he was a bad influence in the area because other young children were going to follow the path that he had chosen. They didn’t understand what he was trying to achieve. It was only after he had released albums like Bafundiseni that people began to warm up to him. They even started to let him play in schools which he had never thought was possible.
Themba “Boyoyo” Mathe
I met him when I was working on one of the buses in my home area. On that particular day I was not working, I attended one of his shows and because I liked dancing, I just jumped on stage and started doing my thing. He liked what he saw and asked me to quit my job and start dancing for him.
Actually on the day he asked me to come and sleep at his house. In a matter of weeks I was his road master and I was in his band for about three to four years.
The one thing that I remember about him is that he had a very short temper. He would lose it when things did not go his way.
So you always had to be careful on how you conducted yourself around him.
He was also very tight with money. He was someone who had a hard time paying the people who worked for him. It was always a struggle to get money from him although in the end he would eventually pay. Despite all that he left a strong legacy and even after his death we continued to use his instruments before the man who founded Mokis Connection came and stole them.
One of our most memorable shows was when we went to Tshelanyemba amidst rumours that he had died. When he stepped on stage the whole place erupted and I will never forget the looks on people’s faces as this “ghost” performed for them.
Ndux Jnr (Son)
He died when I was in Grade 7 and the one thing I recall about him was that although he was open, he was also strict. The things that he talked about in his music are the things that he wanted to teach us in life as his children.
I might not have played with him but I used to love the radio. I loved music and so whenever he came for shows in Kezi he would bring me up to the stage and introduce me to the audience and say this is my boy who will take over when he grows up.
Even though I lost interest when I grew up that calling came back to me later on life. In 2002 when I was in college I started writing the songs on my mind. If something is in your blood I guess you do that. So during holidays I would then work with a man called Modias Chauke and he was someone that used to work with my father. He would tell me what to do and what I needed to do to fine tune my sound. But I only started recording professionally when I joined the army in 2005.
A lot of the band members had left to join Mokis Connection. I had a hard time getting instruments. My first album had been successful but I had no instruments for live shows. My father’s instruments had been sold off because no one thought that they would be used ever again. They thought no one would emerge to use them.
He made the fan base but the problem is that people love to compare me with the legend. They forget that I’m my own man.
So even when I compose my own songs I put his old songs so that I don’t lose my way.
We were affected emotionally when he died but our family is united. So whatever challenges arise we put hands together and that even goes today. So although I was very young when he passed away I had a lot of support and I did not feel the impact that much.
We never struggled financially. His things were in order and they still are so all that we can do is maintain them. The Nkulumane is house there and he had livestock. We’re just taking care of it.