Here, Unorthodox Reviews remembers 10 Iconic African Musicians We Lost in 2023.
In 2023, the Afro-music scene mourned the loss of several iconic figures whose contributions have rendered them immortalized. In commemorating these musical legends, we honor their contributions and celebrate the lasting impact they’ve had on countless lives. Though they may no longer be with us, their melodies continue to echo in our hearts, reminding us of the power of music to unite and inspire.
Nigerian rapper and singer Mohbad, born Ilerioluwa Aloba, tragically passed away at the age of 27 under mysterious circumstances. Mohbad’s team reported that he went to the hospital on September 12, 2023, for treatment of an infection from an injury. After receiving an injection, he passed out and did not regain consciousness.
Despite his young age, Mohbad’s impact was profound, especially following the success of his hit song “Ko Por Ke” in 2020. His departure left a void in the Nigerian music landscape, leaving fans and colleagues in mourning.
South African Afro-pop sensation and guitarist Zahara, born Bulelwa Mkutukana, bid farewell in December 2023 after battling liver complications. She passed away aged 36. In 2019, Zahara revealed her struggle with alcohol addiction. A month before her passing, her family confirmed her hospital admission, urging South Africans to keep her in their prayers.
Zahara’s rise to fame with her acclaimed album “Loliwe” in 2011 endeared her to audiences across Africa. Her soulful voice and poignant lyrics will be dearly missed, leaving behind a legacy of musical brilliance.
The tragic end of Kiernan Forbes, better known as AKA, sent shockwaves through the music community. AKA’s life, along with his friend Tebello ‘Tibz’ Motsoane, was tragically cut short at the age of 35 in a senseless act of violence.
The duo was reportedly en route to a nightclub to perform as part of Forbes’ birthday festivities when they were shot. Authorities are currently investigating the motive behind the attack.
A pioneer in South African rap, AKA’s contributions transcended borders, earning him international acclaim and admiration.
3. Costa Titch
The sudden passing of South African rapper Costa Titch, 27, also known as Constantinos Tsobanoglou, shocked the music world. His onstage collapse during a performance at Ultra South Africa was met with disbelief.
Costa Titch’s passing occurred just a month after the assassination of his mentor and friend, South African rapper Kiernan Forbes, also known as AKA. The eerie coincidence lies in the fact that both artists had collaborated on a joint project the previous year, only to tragically pass away in close succession just a year later.
Costa Titch’s meteoric rise in the Hip-hop and Amapiano genres, highlighted by hits like “Big Flexa,” showcased his immense talent and potential, making his untimely demise all the more heartbreaking.
5. Akwaboah Snr
The passing of the Ghanaian highlife veteran, widely known as Akwaboah Snr., was confirmed by his son, Kwabena Akwaboah Jr., via social media on May 16, 2023.
Kwadwo Akwaboah, renowned for his hit song “Awerekyekyere”, recently collaborated with his son on a remake of the track, which garnered widespread attention and airplay. Akwaboah Snr. was a celebrated vocalist and a master keyboardist, having performed with numerous local and international bands throughout his illustrious career.
6. OJ Blaq
Ghanaian rapper OJ Blaq passed away at the age of 40 after a documented battle with kidney disease, although the exact cause of his death remains unconfirmed.
Andy Nii Akrashie, born in Accra, Ghana, kicked off his music journey in the early 2000s with the release of “The Blaq Mixtape” in 2006. Notably, he was among the initial artists, if not the very first, to sign with and be introduced by leading Ghanaian record label, Lynx Entertainment.
Renowned for his distinctive rapping style and socially conscious lyrics, he also made a name for himself as an actor, featuring in numerous Ghanaian films and TV series.
7. Mbongeni Ngema
Mbongeni Ngema, the esteemed South African playwright, producer, and composer renowned for creating the Broadway sensation “Sarafina!,” tragically passed away at the age of 68 in a car accident, as confirmed by his family.
Ngema’s legacy is defined by his iconic work “Sarafina!,” which debuted on Broadway in 1988 and was later adapted into a musical drama featuring Whoopi Goldberg in 1992. The production achieved international acclaim, earning nominations for prestigious awards such as the Tony and Grammy.
His legacy as a visionary artist inspires future generations to strive for excellence and social change through the arts.
8. Gloria Bosman
South African jazz virtuoso Gloria Bosman’s untimely passing saddened fans and fellow musicians. The Soweto-born Bosman died at the age of 50 after a short illness, as communicated by a press release issued by her family upon her demise.
Her velvety vocals and genre-defying versatility earned her widespread acclaim and numerous accolades. Bosman’s influence on the local and international music scenes remains unmatched, working with some of South Africa’s prominent musicians including the late Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, and Moses Molelekwa, as well as Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mutukudzi.
9. Lokassa Ya M’bongo
Renowned Congolese guitarist Lokassa Ya M’Bongo — born Denis Lokassa Kasiya — passed away in Nashua, New Hampshire in the United States on Tuesday night March 15th, 2023 after fighting an extended illness. He was 76.
The Congolese guitar maestro’s demise marked the end of an era in Soukous music. His innovative blend of Congolese melodies and Afro-Cuban influences revolutionized the genre, earning him a place among the greats. Lokassa Ya M’bongo’s legacy lives on through his groundbreaking contributions to African music.
10. Vusi Ma R5
We also mourned the loss of Bacardi music pioneer Itumeleng Mosoeu, popularly known as Vusi Ma R5. The 35-year-old hitmaker from Boekenhout, Mabopane, Pretoria, met his untimely demise in a hail of bullets outside a tavern in Soshanguve, South Africa.
Following his tragic passing, Vusi Ma R5 garnered international attention when footage from his memorial service and funeral went viral showing scantily dressed people dancing at his well-attended funeral.