Mekoa lived for jazz music

He was bet­ter known as teacher

Sowetan - - News - By Pa­tience Bam­balele

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.

/ BU­SISIWE MBATHA

Johnny Mekoa was a joy to watch on stage, as in this Stan­dard Bank Joy of Jazz in 2012.

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