Tributes to renowned jazzman pour in
Poets and musicians bid farewell to Mekoa
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.
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.