Zuma mourns jazz le­gend

Johnny Mekoa was first black mu­si­cian with a jazz de­gree

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

World-renowned trum­peter and mu­sic ed­u­ca­tor Dr Ra­mak­gob­otla Johnny Mekoa was a re­mark­able mu­si­cian who contributed im­mensely to the mu­sic sec­tor, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma said.

“He self­lessly im­parted his mu­si­cal knowl­edge and skills to as­pi­rant mu­si­cians, es­pe­cially chil­dren from poor back­grounds,” Zuma said.

“May his legacy be an in­spi­ra­tion to oth­ers to be self­less teach­ers in dif­fer­ent fields, in or­der to build a bet­ter and pros­per­ous South Africa. We wish to con­vey our sin­cere con­do­lences to the Mekoa fam­ily and the mu­sic in­dus­try at large. May his soul rest in peace.”

Mekoa died on Mon­day, at the age of 72. He es­tab­lished the Gauteng Mu­sic Academy in 1994, teach­ing jazz mu­sic to the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially the youth.

In 2015, Zuma con­ferred on Mekoa the Or­der of Ikhamanga in Sil­ver, an award for South African cit­i­zens who have ex­celled in arts, cul­ture, lit­er­a­ture, mu­sic, jour­nal­ism and sport.

Ear­lier, Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa said that Mekoa was one of South Africa’s most tal­ented and self­less sons.

“We are shocked and sad­dened by the sud­den pass­ing of the trum­pet player and head of the Gauteng Mu­sic Academy, Johnny Mekoa,” said Mthethwa.

“Over the years, he has done so much to pro­vide mu­si­cal skills to tal­ented youth and he has pur­sued this call­ing to teach and im­part knowl­edge with both pas­sion and per­se­ver­ance.

“His own con­tri­bu­tion to South African mu­sic has been im­mense. From op­ti­cal dis­penser to head­ing a mu­sic academy, he had the vi­sion for look­ing ahead and ad­dress­ing the needs of new times.”

Mekoa was born in Benoni and wanted to pur­sue a mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion and ca­reer, but cir­cum­stances at the time did not al­low him to do so, the de­part­ment said.

To­gether with other mu­si­cians, he con­tin­ued to play in bands and groups and in­spired new gen­er­a­tions and new sounds, even if he was pre­vented from trav­el­ling abroad by the apartheid gov­ern­ment, which re­fused to give him a pass­port.

At 41, Mekoa be­gan for­mal ter­tiary stud­ies in mu­sic and earned a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in mu­sic from the then Uni­ver­sity of Natal. Later he took up a Ful­bright Schol­ar­ship and stud­ied for a Masters in Mu­sic at the Uni­ver­sity of In­di­ana in the US.

The de­part­ment said Mekoa’s con­tri­bu­tion to arts ed­u­ca­tion was through the es­tab­lish­ment of the Mu­sic Academy of Gauteng.

“He has been a life-af­firm­ing force in mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion. He was not con­tent only to play an in­stru­ment and to bask in the light of his own cre­ativ­ity and glory, but in the spirit of ubuntu, he needed to share that light with oth­ers,” said Mthethwa.

“We shall re­mem­ber Johnny Mekoa for his life’s work and his love for peo­ple, for en­cour­ag­ing youth and sus­tain­ing our mu­sic.”

Chair­per­son of the Liv­ing Legends Legacy Pro­gramme, Wel­come Msomi, paid trib­ute to Mekoa, say­ing: “He was com­mit­ted to rais­ing the sta­tus of young mu­si­cians to achieve ex­cel­lence. This is a tes­ta­ment to his tire­less work in es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing the Gauteng Mu­sic Academy against all the odds. So many of our peo­ple are go­ing to miss him dearly.”

Gauteng MEC for Sport, Arts, Cul­ture and Re­cre­ation Faith Maz­ibuko this week paid her re­spects to Mekoa.

“It is with heart­felt sor­row and pain that I learned of the pass­ing of one of the most re­spected and prom­i­nent jazz and mu­sic brains South Africa has ever pro­duced, Dr Johnny Mekoa. A great hu­man be­ing, teacher and most of all, a dear friend. The first black stu­dent with a de­gree in jazz, he went on to get a Masters,” she said.

“We in Gauteng and as­pir­ing jazz mu­si­cians through­out the coun­try and else­where have lost dearly, but his legacy will live for­ever

“We’ve lost a great teacher, artist, mu­si­cian and a leader in the mu­sic in­dus­try. May his soul rest in peace and his legacy con­tinue to be an in­spi­ra­tion to the na­tion and bring com­fort to the loved ones he left be­hind.”

Maz­ibuko said that Mekoa’s hard work was no­ticed world­wide and he was awarded many ac­co­lades in­clud­ing the Life Achieve­ment Award by the Swedish Jazz Fed­er­a­tion, and the Arts & Cul­ture Trust (ACT) Life­time Achieve­ment Award.

Mekoa played an im­por­tant role in the es­tab­lish­ment of the Stan­dard Bank Youth Jazz Fes­ti­val which takes place an­nu­ally dur­ing the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val in Gra­ham­stown, she said.

JAZZ LE­GEND: Mu­sic ed­u­ca­tor Dr Ra­mak­gob­otla Johny Mekoa

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