ZAM Reporter

Mac McKenzie (1964 – 2024)

The South African musician kept the Cape goema music alive after the apartheid regime destroyed the cities’ famous District 6, a multicultural home to the Kaapse Klopse rythms.

Samuel ‘Mac’ McKenzie died on April 29. His band, The Genuines, was formed in 1986 and moved between Cape Town and Johannesburg enjoying widespread support and varied audiences. McKenzie, the band’s singer and banjo player, was more than a goema pioneer. He was also a jazz front man, A symphony composer as well as a master on the electric guitar. As noted in one of many obituaries ‘a musical chameleon’ because he never conformed to one music genre.

In December 1987, McKenzie and The Genuines participated in the Amsterdam Culture in Another South Africa (CASA) festival and conference. While South Africa lived under a state of emergency, Amsterdam city offered a safe environment for close to three hundred South African cultural workers, performing artists, writers and poets. The cultural policies in a new, free and democratic South Africa were discussed during the day while participants performed in dozens of theatres in the evening. ZAM editor Bart Luirink, then a staff member of the Anti Apartheid Movement, was one of the organisers. Luirink: “Mac and the other band members arrived a couple of days before the event officially started. They registered at the International Theatre and immediately began to explore the neighbourhood. Within hours Mac had organised a gig for The Genuines in one of the music bars two blocks away. It turned the bar upside down.”

These words by Marcus Wytt were published in the memorial programme

Uncle Mac.

One of the most wonderful, creative

and free spirits to walk this earth – light and dark,

beautiful and menacing, mad but completely sane,

skiulled yet so instrinctive, intimidatin

whilst so compassionate. Mostly, you were just Mac,

and you didn’t give a shit, and you didn’t give a shit.

Not in a kak way, but in a way that more

peoples should live their lives.

Thank you for all your courage and for all you were

your legacy is strong (though the deciphering of it

will take sometime!). I remember once on some

chaotic gig asking you what key we were

supposed supposed to be in … supposed to be in …

You reply: “Bru, it’s all in one key.”

Best advise I ever got.

Wherever you one yourself now -keepsearching

and take prisoners!

much love and gratitude xxx

In September 2016 McKenzie was a special guest at the screening of the documentary Mac McKenzie & Mama Goema: The Cape Town Beat in Five Movements, organised by ZAM in collaboration with Afrovibes and Galerie 23.

Mac McKenzie & The Genuines feature in Beyond Dawn, Culture in Another South Africa (1987), a documentary by Maarten Rens. The full documentary here

Watch a tribute to Mac McKenzie by Shifty Records 

Special thanks to Mac’s partner Angy Hammond for providing us with information about his funeral.