Who was Todd Matshikiza? Google Doodle celebrates South African jazz musician

 (Google Doodles)
(Google Doodles)

South African icon Todd Matshikiza is on today’s colorful Google Doddle, honouring the legacy of his remarkable life.

The cartoon was made by South African artist Keith Vlahakis to honour the maestro's masterwork, the orchestra's performance of the cantata "Uxolo" (meaning peace) at the Johannesburg Festival on September 25, 1956.

But who exactly was Matshikiza?

Who was Todd Matshikiza?

Matshikiza was a South African pianist, composer, and journalist.

Born on March 7, 1921, into a musical family in Queenstown, South Africa, his father, a talented organist, taught Matshikiza and his six siblings how to play the piano, while his mother was a vocalist.

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.

Out of all achievements in his career, he is best known for his music including for the song ‘Quick in Love’ which featured in ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ as well as musicals ‘Mkhumbane’ and ‘King King’.

Brief life in England

Matshikiza briefly migrated to England in 1960 to escape the ongoing Apartheid in South Africa, which he describes in his autobiography, Chocolates for My Wife.

London sounded like the best opportunity at the time as his musical, King Kong, which chronicled the life of heavyweight boxer Ezekiel Dlamini, also known as the monicker King Kong, became very popular and played at the West End in 1961.

His time in England, however, did not prove to be productive. He struggled to make an impression in the UK's local music scene. He later relocated to Zambia, where he was employed at the Zambian Information Service as a music archivist until his death in 1968.