As a journalist, Matshikiza was a contributor to the innovatory South African magazine Drum, and known for his autobiographical short stories. As a musician, Matshikiza was celebrated for composing the score of the musical King Kong. He became a Google Doodle on 25th
South African icon who brought music, activism, and journalism together in a harmonious blend. On what would have been his 107th birthday, Google has dedicated its doodle to this legendary figure, highlighting the performance of his commissioned cantata, “Uxolo,” at the seventieth Johannesburg Festival. The Doodle is gracing the Google homepages in various countries including South Africa, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, and Iceland, indicating the global impact Matshikiza had on both music and society.
Early Years and Musical Prowess
Born in Queenstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa, Todd Matshikiza was a true prodigy. Displaying an innate knack for music from a tender age, Matshikiza honed his skills in Johannesburg, rapidly becoming a force in the jazz scene of the 1950s. The man wasn’t just a gifted pianist; he was an exemplary composer, setting the stage for jazz musicians for generations to come.
A Revolutionary in Theater
Perhaps one of his most seminal contributions was his collaboration with the esteemed South African playwright Athol Fugard on the musical “King Kong” in 1959. This groundbreaking work revolutionized South African theater, capturing the collective imagination and presenting complex human emotions against the backdrop of a racially segregated society. “King Kong” wasn’t merely entertainment; it was a clarion call for change.
Beyond the Music: Journalism and Activism
But Todd Matshikiza’s talents were not restricted to the grand piano or theater. He was an ardent journalist, a beacon of light who used the power of the pen to fight the evils of apartheid. Through his writings, he breathed life into the experiences of the oppressed, speaking truth to power in an era where doing so could result in severe consequences.
His impact transcended South African borders. Matshikiza was one of only five black South African artists to grace the first Zambia Arts Festival held in Luanshya in May 1965. At a time when the apartheid regime isolated South Africa from much of the world, such international recognitions were not merely accolades but vital affirmations of the potency of black artistry and intellect.
Financial Success and Enigma
Although the exact figures concerning Todd Matshikiza’s net worth remain undisclosed, it’s widely acknowledged that he led a prosperous career. His multifaceted engagements, spanning from musical compositions to journalism, ensured a steady income stream. The notion that he might have amassed a six-figure net worth by the time of his death in 1968 doesn’t seem far-fetched, considering his versatile talents and enduring impact.
The Final Photo and Lasting Memories
As the spotlight shines again on Todd Matshikiza thanks to the Google Doodle, fans are scrambling to find his last photograph. While it’s difficult to pin down the final snapshot of this multifaceted personality, images from various stages of his life are being shared across social media platforms, celebrating the man who touched so many lives in myriad ways.
A Legacy Revisited
It’s not every day that a Google Doodle revitalizes interest in a historical figure to this extent. Yet for someone as multifaceted and instrumental in societal change as Todd Matshikiza, perhaps it’s the least that could be done. This rekindled attention offers a chance for new generations to acquaint themselves with a man who was not just a musician but a social activist, a journalist, and above all, a human being who used his talents for the greater good.
As tributes pour in online and the seventieth Johannesburg Festival breathes new life into his commissioned cantata “Uxolo,” Todd Matshikiza’s legacy feels as vibrant as ever. He may have left us in 1968, but his contributions continue to echo, proving that legends never really die; they live on in the hearts and minds of those willing to listen.
Matshikiza obtained a music and teaching diploma from St Peter’s College in Johannesburg.
After graduation, he spent his free time writing choral works and songs like ‘Hamba Kahle’, while also working as a maths and English teacher.
Finally, in 1947, the maestro was able to establish a private school, the Todd Matshikiza School Of Music. He mainly taught piano and jazz music. As this did not yield a steady income, he also moonlighted as a bookkeeper as well as a salesman.
On top of all this, Matshikiza joined the initial group of authors for the Drum music magazine. He published two columns, one about the development of the jazz genre and the other about life in the township. Both columns enjoyed enormous popularity.