The Socio-Economic Challenges of South African Indigenous Musicians: A Case Study of Venda-Based Vho-Ntshengedzeni Mamphodo

Keywords: arts management; cultural policy; entrepreneurship; indigenous musicians; Mbila; poverty


This article discusses and raises awareness about the socio-economic plight of indigenous musicians in South Africa. Through a qualitative case study of the Venda musician, Vho-Talelani Andries Ntshengedzeni Mamphodo, dubbed the “Father of mbila music,†the article highlights the fact that the welfare of Black South African artists, particularly indigenous musicians in South Africa, is generally a precarious affair. Their popularity, at the height of their careers, sometimes masks shocking details of exploitation, neglect, and the poverty they are subjected to, which are exposed only after they have died. Empirical data identifies this as a symptom of, among other things, cultural policy and arts management deficiencies in the promotion of indigenous music. The article aims to find ways to redress this unfortunate situation, which is partially a product of general apathy and scant regard that these artists have perennially been subjected to, even by their own governments, as well as some members of their societies. All these factors mentioned are compounded by ignorance on the part of South African artists. Part of the objective of this study was to establish whether the exposition of the Vhavenda musicians is a typical example of all Black South African indigenous musicians and, if this is the case, whether the suggested ways to redress this unfortunate situation could contribute to or play a role in alleviating the plight of such artists in the entire country.