[JPL] Bheki Mseleku
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
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
September 14, 2008
/ Published on the Web by IOL on 2008-09-14 09:12:00/
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