Trib­utes to renowned jazzman pour in

Poets and mu­si­cians bid farewell to Mekoa

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MODIEGI MASHAMAITE

AN OR­CHES­TRAL jazz send-off soothed the bro­ken hearts of the Mekoa fam­ily and the lov­ing friends of veteran jazz trum­peter, band leader and jazz ed­u­ca­tor, Johnny Mekoa.

It was a fit­ting farewell for Mekoa, who was laid to rest yes­ter­day af­ter­noon at his music acad­emy in Put­fontein, Benoni.

De­scribed as “a good and faith­ful ser­vant” and a gen­er­ous man who lived a sim­ple life, Mekoa passed away at the age of 72 on July 3 fol­low­ing a short ill­ness.

Born in Et­watwa, near Benoni, in 1945, Mekoa al­ways wanted to be­come a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian but cir­cum­stances dur­ing the apartheid era pre­vented him from liv­ing his dream un­til mid­dle age.

In­stead of giv­ing up, Mekoa de­fied the odds to pur­sue his pas­sion.

The late Jazz great was pre­vented from tour­ing out­side South Africa by the apartheid govern­ment, which did not ap­prove his ap­pli­ca­tion for a pass­port.

Mekoa be­gan his for­mal music stud­ies in 1986 when he was 41, thus be­com­ing the old­est first-year stu­dent at the then Univer­sity of Na­tal’s school of music.

He grad­u­ated with a de­gree in music and won a schol­ar­ship to pur­sue a mas­ter’s in the sub­ject at the Univer­sity of In­di­ana in the US while con­tin­u­ing to play in small bands.

The burn­ing am­bi­tion he had har­boured from his child­hood days mo­ti­vated him to help young mu­si­cians to achieve ex­cel­lence. Mekoa worked tire­lessly to es­tab­lish and main­tain the Gaut­eng Music Acad­emy, a hub that in­tro­duced dozens of as­pir­ing mu­si­cians to jazz.

It is one of the few re­main­ing com­mu­nity-based music ed­u­ca­tion schools, and con­tin­ues to change the lives of young peo­ple through var­i­ous cour­ses and work­shops.

At Mekoa’s fu­neral, Mabutho “Kid” Sit­hole, a worl­drenowned South African ac­tor, led the main ser­vice, which was at­tended by hun­dreds of mourn­ers.

They in­cluded ac­tress Abi­gail Kubeka, Gaut­eng Com­mu­nity Safety MEC Faith Maz­ibuko, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, singers Sipho “Hot­stix” Mabuse and Ringo Madlin­gozi, jazz great Jonas Gwangwa, as well as Cai­phus Se­menya and his wife Letta Mbulu.

Mekoa’s daugh­ters spoke fondly of their fa­ther and said he ex­uded vi­brant, happy and joy­ful vi­bra­tions every­where he went.

Malebo Mekoa said their fa­ther taught them to love and re­spect each other.

Poet Don Mat­tera quoted from Alan Pa­ton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Coun­try dur­ing his speech.

“For the un­born child, who will in­herit this fear, let him not love the earth too deeply.”

He added: “For she will lose all if she loves too much. Africans seated, we have to look at the child of to­mor­row for the child of yes­ter­day show­ered this coun­try with his blood.

“We have to think about the chil­dren and what is go­ing to hap­pen to them. Johnny had this deep love for the chil­dren of the coun­try.”

While recit­ing a poem he wrote for Mekoa, Mat­tera de­clared: “This land, this whole land, will be healed. Must be healed, be­cause the women will help to heal this city. Squat­ter camp, so many squat­ter camps. Mayor, it has to change. This bro­ken land, this wounded place.”

Mekoa is sur­vived by his wife Bu­sisiwe, six chil­dren, and nine grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren.

PIC­TURES: DIMPHO MAJA

FAREWELL, MIGHTY LEG­END: The fu­neral ser­vice of Johnny Mekoa was held at the Music Acad­emy of Gaut­eng in Benoni yes­ter­day.

PO­LICE GOOD­BYE: Ekurhuleni metro of­fi­cers pay their re­spects.

GRIEV­ING: Hun­dreds of mourn­ers at­tended the ser­vice.

JAZZ GREAT: Jonas Gwangwa shared his pas­sion.

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