SA mourns music legend
Annual memorial lecture to honour his memory mooted
Margaret Mekoa, in black hat, is comforted by relatives at the memorial service of her husband, veteran trumpeter and music educator Dr Ramakgobotla Johnny Mekoa, at the Music Academy of Gauteng in Benoni.
THE late master trumpeter and jazz educator Johnny Mekoa, 72, who made a massive contribution to the development of young talent, deserves to be honoured with an annual memorial lecture.
This sentiment was expressed by Welcome Msomi, chairperson of the Living Legends Legacy Projects.
Msomi said: “His commitment to raising the status of young musicians to achieve excellence was beyond doubt. The memorial lectures will help to keep his legacy alive.”
Msomi elicited loud applause when he added that the tireless mentor’s school, Music Academy of Gauteng, should be renamed in his name.
Most of his students were orphans and homeless kids from broken families who lived precariously on the streets and turned to substance abuse.
Mekoa took them away from the streets and children’s homes – rehabilitated them through music education and encouraged them to lead purposeful lives. Today, they are stars that shine brightly on international stages.
Yesterday, they occupied centre stage as they paid musical tributes to their remarkable teacher and father figure who changed their lives. UK-based drummer and band leader Julian Bahula took mourners down memory lane when he recalled a historic moment in South African jazz in 1964 at Orlando Stadium, Soweto.
He recalled when his Pretoria trio, the Malombo Jazzmen took first prize at the annual Castle Lager Jazz Festival, beating drummer Early Mabuza’s Big Five to second place. Mekoa was a member of the Joburg-based quintet. “Johnny and I were friends from the early sixties when he was a student at Kilnerton in Pretoria,” he recalled.
“In 1964 we worked together despite being rivals on stage. There was a lot of friendship and mutual admiration among members of these two bands. It was an exciting time in the history of South African jazz – a golden era,” said Bahula.
Jazz singer Abigail Kubeka, remarked: “Johnny Mekoa loved and lived his craft. His dedication was total and he was one of the finest musicians the country ever produced.”
Her friend and fellow musician, Dorothy Masuku, urged youngsters to take Mekoa’s baton to keep his legacy alive.
Caiphus Semenya also lauded Mekoa’s achievements, adding that he never allowed the hurdles of life under apartheid to destroy his dreams of establishing a jazz school of excellence for children to study music.
Others who paid tribute included photographer Peter Magubane, Jonas Gwangwa, Mara Louw and poets Don Mattera and Glen Masokoane.
He will be buried in his hometown Benoni tomorrow.
Johnny Mekoa loved and lived his craft
TOUCHED MANY LIVES: A memorial service for veteran trumpeter and music educator Dr Ramakgobotla Johnny Mekoa was held at the Music Academy of Gauteng. He took children off the streets and helped them to make something of their lives.
PAID HIS RESPECTS: South African poet and author Don Mattera is guided to his seat.
HONOURED HIM: Actress and music diva Mara Louw.
AMONG THE MOURNERS: TV presenter Dali Tambo, centre.