Mekoa lived for jazz music
He was better known as teacher
The late legendary trumpeter Johnny Mekoa who died on Monday afternoon was a selfless and caring person.
Born in Etwatwa, Benoni, in 1945, Mekoa died after a short illness at his home on the East Rand. Known for mentoring young people, Mekoa contributed immensely to the growth of jazz in South Africa.
Through his academy, Music Academy of Gauteng that he founded in 1994, he produced many talented artists.
One of his protégés, Malcom Jiyane, defined Mekoa as a father not only to him but to many others. He met Mekoa in 1996 while living in Benoni.
“I was 13 and I did not have an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. But when he blew that trumpet something happened to me. It changed my life for good. He exposed my talent to the world and I will always be indebted to him,” Jiyane said.
His daughter, Malebo Mekoa, said her father had a passion to work with young people, that’s why he opened the academy.
“He identified their talents and nurtured them to become the top jazz musicians that they are today,” Malebo said.
Under his academy, Mekoa produced jazz artists such as Mthunzi Mvubu, Mpho Mabogoane, Nthabiseng Mokoena, Zodwa Zililo, Mapule Tshabalala and Portia Sibiya.
The legendary musician’s love for jazz started at a young age. He tried to enrol for a music course in 1964 but was turned away because he was black. But in 1991, at the ripe age of 46, he beat the odds to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Natal.
He got a Fulbright Scholarship to study for a master’s degree in music at the University of Indiana in the US.
He received honorary doctorates from the University of Pretoria and Unisa, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Swedish Jazz Federation. He further received numerous Mayoral Awards from the Ekurhuleni municipality.
Mekoa’s music school was awarded the prestigious International Jazz Education Network Award for five consecutive years. He played a very important role in the establishment of the annual Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival that takes place during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
His memorial service will take place on Sunday at 2pm, at the Music Academy of Gauteng in Putfontein. He will be buried on Tuesday.
Johnny Mekoa was a joy to watch on stage, as in this Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in 2012.