HomeLife & StyleAll that jazz — Mhlanga–a guitarist of rare pedigree

All that jazz — Mhlanga–a guitarist of rare pedigree


Guitarist extraordinaire Louis Mhlanga has achieved international success and acclaim.

He has thrilled and charmed varied audiences across Africa and the world with his sunny stage presence and breezy guitar style. Mhlanga was born in Harare and grew up in Mbare high-density suburb.

Mhlanga has diverse musical expression through his guitar. He has created a personal style that transcends a variety of genres and musical traditions.

Also known as “The African Axe Man”, he has an unmatched ability to modernise the mbira sound and blend it with various influences.

Some of the early influences on his music include Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

As a solo artist Mhlanga has released four albums including Musik Ye Afrika (1997) with Zimbabwean music icons, bassist Jimmy Indi and the late drummer Jethro Shasha.

The album features popular hits Kugara Nekugara, Alois na Jane and Shungu Iwe. He released Mukai (1999) Live at the Bassline with Vusi Mahlasela and Shamwari, an album that features Mhlanga’s dreamy, jazzy compilations in 2001.

Mhlanga is in great demand among his peers the world over and has performed and recorded with some of the best artists of our time.

He has worked on several projects collaborating with such greats as Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri, Sipho “Hot Stix” Mabuse, Dutch singer Stef Bos, George Duke, James Ingram, Al Jarreau, Diane Reeves and Busi Mhlongo.

The award-winning Mhlanga has also produced albums for Thomas Mapfumo, Nigerian King Sunny Adé, South African musician Vusi Mahlasela, and many other artists.

His outstanding musical prowess has taken him across the world. He has performed at major festivals including Music Metisses (France), Rudelstadt (Germany), The Sunsplash (Austria), Masa (Ivory Coast), the Standard Bank Jazz Festivals (South Africa) and the Tribute to Lady Di Concert in England.

Mhlanga is a former director of musical theatre and he also worked for Zimbabwe’s Ethnomusicology Centre, where he was in charge of developing national teaching programmes for traditional and contemporary Zimbabwean music.

He also spent a year in the Netherlands teaching African guitar and working as the musician-in-residence at the Royal Dutch Conservatory of Music.

Mhlanga is a self-taught guitarist whose career began in the 1970s. His exceptional guitar skills got him early recognition and worked with many top Zimbabwean acts including Shaka, Talking Drum, Ilanga, Mudzimu, and Oliver Mtukudzi.

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