[JPL] Bheki Mseleku

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Sun Sep 14 23:06:30 EDT 2008


SA jazz pianist found fame in Europe


By Chris Makhaye

The death this week of an accomplished jazz musician has highlighted how 
South Africans tend to overlook local talent.

Friends and family say Bheki Mseleku received greater recognition in 
Europe and the US than at home. He won awards overseas, but could not 
get a decent gig at home.

He had to return to Europe to continue with his musical career.

Durban-born Mseleku - a pianist, guitarist, saxophonist, vocalist and 
composer - died on Tuesday in London, where he had lived with his wife, 
Nomvula Ndlazulwa, and their children. He had been diabetic for years.

Langa Mseleku, Bheki's older brother, said his brother had been 
influenced by their father, a composer and performer.

Bheki played his father's piano and then tried other musical instruments 
while at Lamontville High.

His break came as an electric organ player in Johannesburg in 1975.

Langa said Bheki started with the Spirits Rejoice group, which featured 
such greats as the late Sipho Gumede, Juke Makasi, Mervyn Afrika and 
George Tyefumani. They toured and played at various venues abroad.

Mseleku and many other talented musicians left South Africa after the 
1976 Soweto riots.

"He went to Sweden first, but then a friend invited him to London and he 
played regularly at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club," said Langa.

His debut album, Celebration, in 1991, was critically acclaimed and 
nominated for the British Mercury Music Prize for Album of the Year.

In 1994, he was named the Pianist of the Year in London.

Later, he came back to South Africa and, like many other musicians who 
had lived in exile, was shocked by the lack of appreciation for his work 
at home.

Ras Mayet, a Durban photographer who knew Bheki well, said, "Bheki 
performed with jazz greats. These guys recognised Bheki was as gifted, 
or even better, than they were."

His funeral is planned for next Saturday.

    * This article was originally published on page 7 of The Sunday
      <http://www.sundaytribune.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4610107> on
      September 14, 2008

Tribune <http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=1919>

/ Published on the Web by IOL on 2008-09-14 09:12:00/

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