Google Doodle celebrates South African jazz maestro, Todd Matshikiza

Written by on 26 September, 2023

Google Doodle celebrates South African jazz pianist, composer, and journalist Todd Matshikiza, most famous for his work on the song Quickly in Love, which plays in the 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Illustrated by South Africa-based guest artist Keith Vlahakis, the Doodle is reminiscent of September 25 1956 when Matshikiza’s composition, Uxolo (peace) was played by the orchestra at the 70th Johannesburg Festival.

Matshikiza was born in Queenstown, South Africa, on March 7th, 1921. His mother, a singer, and his father, an organist, taught Matshikiza and his six siblings piano while they grew up. He attended St Peter’s College in Johannesburg and went on to earn his  music and teaching diplomas. Putting these degrees to work, he taught high school English and math and composed choral works and songs such as Hamba Kahle.

Image: Getty  Images

On what inspired the Doodle, artist Vlahakis admits to being heavily inspired by Matshikiza’s music. “I drew most of my inspiration for the Google Doodle from Todd’s Music and especially from the music he composed for the legendary South African musical “King Kong” — the theater production based on the life of Ezekiel Dlamini,” he said.

He adds, “I was heavily influenced by the album cover design for King Kong. The typography and colour palette of the album actually shared stylistic qualities to my own work. I’m a pop artist, and I use bright magenta and yellow in my typographic designs and street art mural styles, so the bright pinks and yellows on the album spoke directly to my own design story.. to celebrate the life and work of Todd Matshikiza.”

As a composer, he is most famous for his work on the song Quickly in Love, which plays in the 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and the score for two theatrical productions, King King and Mkhumbane. The all-Black jazz musical King Kong premiered in 1958 and was a smash hit, spreading as far as London. The musical Mkhumbane (1960) with compositions by Matshikiza and script by Alan Paton was equally powerful, but the political and satirical commentary about the Black experience in Cato Manor in the 1950s limited its popularity.

He composed, played piano, was a freelance journalist, and presented BBC radio programs in London for a few years before moving to Zambia, where he worked as a broadcaster and a music archivist. His story lives on through his autobiography Chocolates for My Wife (1961), which describes apartheid in South Africa and his move to London.

Biography credits: Doodles Archive


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