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Sunday, September 3, 2017


(Dee Sharma Roopanand)

Dee Sharma Roopanand, legendary and highly popular co-founder of the well-known band Dukes Combo, died peacefully in his sleep on August 12, 2017, after a long illness. He was 75.

Roopanand was born into a musical family on May 8, 1942. His father, Donday Sharma Roopanand, was a clarinettist, and mother, Prodhun Parmesar, a violinist. Between them, they covered a wide range of musical styles and customs.

He attended Danny Veeran’s Academy of Music in Victoria Street in the Durban CBD and began playing the penny whistle when he was 12. He and his friends regularly entered music competitions and Roopanand frequented hotels and got to know the members of the resident bands. Following their encouragement that he did indeed have a high level of talent, he bought a second-hand saxophone.

Dukes Combo was set up in 1956 when Sharma met guitarist Harry Naidoo. They found they shared an interest in music and started playing together. They extended the group in 1958 with vocalist Midget Vahed, drummer “Moon” Gartiah and accordionist/guitarist Vassie Naidoo.

Calling themselves the Dukes Combo, their first official resident gig was at the Ocean Terminal which lasted about three months before they were signed up as resident band at the Imperial Hotel, now joined by bassist David Royeppen.

The Dukes Combo continued to perform their repertoire of “golden oldies” for more than six decades appearing at numerous hotels and restaurants in and around Durban. They appeared with such national stars Miriam Makeba, Essop Gani and Thandi Klaasen.

Roopanand went to work in the navy and built up an excellent band at the SAS Jalsena. He decided to retire from Dukes Combo in 2012 but continued to appear as a guest artist although his health deteriorated. His last appearance with the band was a concert for the KZN Blind and Deaf Society on July 15.

His wife, Pam, died in 2014 but he leaves behind three sons and three grandchildren.