Farewell to a gentleman

Wiseman Nako, Langa

So the wonderful and silky Mr Personality has departed.

So sad the song that says goodbye and these lyrics from Teddy Pendergrass welled me up emotionally when I heard the sad news about the passing away of Cyril Thulani Ngcukana.

My knowledge and the time I spent with him go way, way back home because both of us were born and bred at Langa location and we were also both neighbours and friends.

Cyril, as we called him, right at an early age came to realise and display his talent as a musician.

This was not by accident given the fact that he is from the legendary musical Ngcukana family. His first instruments were a guitar and a Melodica from which he played the various songs from bands such as the Movers, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Gibson Kente, Beatles, Temptations, Letta Mbuli and Hugh Masekela just to name a few.

Besides being a musical prodigy, he was also a very handsome dude who had a perfect eye for both style and elegance, a feature that comes in handy for those who wish to become fashionistas professionally.

In short, his taste for clothes was magnificent in that he knew very well how to dress in style. I distinctly remember when we were studying at Zimasa Higher Primary school and a Beauty and Mr Personality competition was held.

When he came out on the catwalk, he impressed the audience by showcasing his superb talents both as a dancer and a stylish dresser.

Most spectators were all bowled out by his display but just wait till I finish this story… one of the contenders took to stage and imitated Cyril by trying to dance like him and we all burst out laughing because we could see that he was no match for Cyril’s dancing skills. To our surprise, this contender continued dishing out Cyril’s style of dancing to the end. But the sweet ending to this competition was that he became Cyril’s runner-up no 1.

Besides his dancing style, Cyril was equally gifted as an acrobat, considering that his body was thinly built and it enabled him to do most of the cat’s reflexes, hence we called him My Kind.

This dude also got arrested in 1976 for his political activities and was held in detention without trial for a year. When he came back from detention he had lost interest in school and decided to choose and pursue a musical career as a pianist.

In fact, the piano finally became his main instrument and he ended up playing it professionally. In the late seventies and early eighties he played with a number of bands that were playing at the various night clubs in Cape Town.

With the experience that he amassed he was the co-founder of the band called Peto. This band became a household name in South Africa and it gave birth to the legendary Ringo Madlingozi who was one of Cyril’s understudy musicians. Unfortunately, the group split up but still Cyril continued nurturing his craft further despite this setback.

We all know the challenges that the various musicians face in South Africa financially. Cyril studied and passed an electronics technician’s course. That ensured that he was able to supplement his fluctuating income as a musician because he installed and repaired televisions and music centres.

Eventually, he got married to Thakane, and they had three lovely children.

Unfortunately, for the reasons best known by both partners, the marriage broke down and eventually they divorced.

This setback in his life took a huge piece out of him in that his life took a turn for the worst.

Irrespective of these setbacks in his life, the most admirable thing about him was that he never complained about that but maintained a very happy outgoing personality.

In short, I don’t remember hearing about or witnessing Cyril being involved in a fight with anybody.

The last time I saw him was only last week at the funeral of his nephew and he was in his high spirit and dressed in what I would call Can’t Get clothes and that was his way of showing us that he could still dress elegantly when given an opportunity.

My parting short to my brother and a gifted musician, may Southern Comfort, lyrically comfort you for I know that Joe Sample would lyrically welcome you after Herbie Hancock had sent you telepathically the legendary Cantaloupe Island music sheet so that he can musically rest in peace eternally.