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Musician Jonas Gwangwa passes away


Musician Jonas Gwangwa passes away
Jonas Gwangwa (Internet image)

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Cape Town – South African and world music has lost an icon with the death of jazz trombonist, composer and organiser Jonas Gwangwa.

The musician, who was 83, died on January 23 succumbing to cardiac complications.

He passed away on the same date that his great friend Hugh Masekela had died three years earlier, and two years to the day after Zimbabwean great Oliver Mtukudzi.

Gwangwa, who spent the prime of his life in exile, not only won acclaim for his music, he was also deeply involved in the struggle against white-minority rule in the country.

Born in the Johannesburg township of Soweto on 19 October 1937, Gwangwa went on to enjoy a highly successful musical career spanning six decades.

During that time he answered the call by Oliver Tambo, then-president of the ANC, to lead the Amandla Cultural Ensemble. The group was formed in 1980 to show a softer side to the anti-apartheid struggle, and win support in different parts of the world.

The white-minority National Party government regarded Gwangwa’s musical and cultural activism as a big enough threat for their security forces to bomb his house in Botswana in 1985. Fortunately the musician and the other occupants were elsewhere.

His commitment to the liberation struggle together with his exceptional musical talent saw Gwangwa being awarded South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga in Gold – the nation’s highest honour.

The citation for the national order, which he received in 2010, recalls how he “enthralled the world with his artistry as a composer and all-round creative genius. For more than 30 years he travelled the world as an exile collecting accolades wherever he went”. (BBC)