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.

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