Legendary jazz musician Jonas Gwangwa passes away at 83

MPHO RANTAO

SOUTH African veteran musician Jonas Gwangwa has died.

Gwangwa’s death comes two weeks after the passing of his wife, Violet Gwangwa.

The internationally-acclaimed trombone player has entertained crowds across the world for forty years, using his music to tell audiences the stories of South African during apartheid – all being melodious, sombre or nostalgic. 

Gwangwa was born in Orlando East in Soweto during the turbelent 1950s era of Apartheid South Africa. He gained popularity while performing in Sophiatown, and has performed alongside the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, Herb Alpert, Johnny Gertze, Miriam Makeba and Caiphus Semenya.

He is also known for playing the trombone as part of the Jazz Epistles before moving onto a solo career.

Well known for songs Morwa, Batsumi and Cry Freedom, he took his musical talents across the South African border as an exile – performing and achieving success in sold-out events and awards over thirty years.

President Cyril Ramaphosa sent his tribute to the jazz artist on Twitter, writing that Gwangwa was a giant in the revolutionary cultural movement within South Africa. 

Gwangwa’s death occurred on the anniversaries of fellow late jazz musicians Oliver Mtukudzi and Hugh Masekela. 

President Ramaphosa added: “Jonas Gwangwa ascends to our great orchestra of musical ancestors whose creative genius and dedication to the freedom of all South Africans inspired millions in our country and mobilised the international community against the apartheid system”.

The award-winning jazz musician, composer and producer received the order of Inkamanga from the South African Presidency for his exceptional contribution to music and the struggle for freedom in 2010. 

Some of his other memorable performances include playing at Nelson Mandela’s 70thbirthday tribute at London’s Wembley Stadium, and performing at the Sound Of Africa concert at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1965.

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