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Entertainment & Arts

Google Doodle Honors Todd Matshikiza: South African Jazz Pianist, Composer, and Journalist”

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Todd Matshikiza, a renowned South African jazz pianist, composer, and journalist. The Doodle, illustrated by guest artist Keith Vlahakis from South Africa, pays tribute to Matshikiza’s commissioned cantata titled “Uxolo” (meaning “peace”), which was performed by the orchestra at the 70th Johannesburg Festival on September 25, 1956.

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Todd Matshikiza, born on March 7th, 1921, in Queenstown, South Africa, came from a family with deep musical roots. His mother was a singer, and his father, an organist, imparted piano lessons to Todd and his six siblings as they grew up. Matshikiza continued his education at St. Peter’s College in Johannesburg, where he earned diplomas in music and teaching. While pursuing a career in education, he taught high school English and mathematics, all the while composing choral works and songs, including “Hamba Kahle.”

Matshikiza

In 1947,  returned to Johannesburg and founded the Todd  School of Music, where he specialized in teaching piano, with a particular focus on jazz music. During this period, he was also a member of the Syndicate of African Artists, an organization aimed at promoting music and concerts throughout the country.

Matshikiza’s dual passions for jazz and journalism converged when he became one of the inaugural writers for Drum magazine. His writings covered a range of topics, including a column that delved into the artistry and development of jazz, as well as another column dedicated to township life, titled “With the Lid Off.” Many of his articles from the latter column have been compiled into the book “With the Lid Off: South African Insights from Home and Abroad 1959-2000.”

Todd Matshikiza is celebrated as a composer, and one of his notable compositions is the song “Quickly in Love,” which was featured in the 2013 film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” He also gained recognition for his work as the composer for two significant theatrical productions: “King Kong” and “Mkhumbane.”

“King Kong,” an all-Black jazz musical that premiered in 1958, achieved remarkable success and even made its way to London, becoming a sensation. “Mkhumbane” (1960), featuring compositions by Matshikiza and Alan Paton, was equally renowned.

Matshikiza’s talents extended beyond music. He played the piano, worked as a freelance journalist, and hosted radio programs while residing in London. Later, he relocated to Zambia, where he worked as a broadcaster and music archivist. His autobiography, “Chocolates for My Wife” (1961), provides valuable insights into apartheid in South Africa and his decision to move to London.

Todd Matshikiza’s impact and legacy extend across regions, including Ireland, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Africa, as reflected in the Google Doodle dedicated to him.

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