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Thursday, May 12, 2011


(Zim Ngqawana, pic acknowledgement: Wikipedia)

Jazz great Zim Ngqawana had a stroke on May 9 while rehearsing for a show and died the following morning (May 10) after a second stroke. He died in the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital at the age of 52. Born in Port Elizabeth on Christmas Day 1959, he is best remembered as leading the group of performers who helped celebrate the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

A flautist and saxophonist, he started playing flute at the age of 21. He studied at Rhodes University and then at the University of Natal before being offered scholarships to the Max Roach/Wynton Marsalis jazz workshop and the University of Massachusetts, where he studied with Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef.

He recorded his first solo album, Zimology, in Norway in 1998. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian at the time, Ngqawana described Zimology as "a study of the self. It's about who I am, what I've done, what I'm doing and where I'm heading with my music".

He returned to South Africa and set about carving an impressive career which soon saw him recognised as one of the country’s top jazz musicians and composers. He worked with jazz greats Hugh Masakela and Abdullah Ibrahim and recorded no less than ten albums. He toured the United States with his band 'Ingoma' in 1995 and created the Zimology Institute to mentor young jazz musicians through an alternative approach to the formal music education system.

artSMart editor Caroline Smart says: “Zim was one of the very first people I interviewed when I entered the field of arts journalism. He was still a student at the newly-created Centre for Jazz at the then University of Natal but despite his youth, I remember being struck by his focus and quiet, calm drive. What a loss to the music industry.

A tribute to Zim Ngqawana featuring Zim’s band members will take place at The Atrium, South West Engineering, Wits University on May 14 at 16h00. Entrance is free.