On 13 October 2009 Winston Monwabisi ‘Mankunku’ Ngozi joined the ancestors. He was born in Retreat (a suburb), Cape Town, South Africa, in 1943. His interest in music started early and was carefully nurtured by his mother, Gertrude. Having experimented with piano and trumpet he took up saxophone as his main instrument.
The Ngozi family was evicted from their home and relocated to Gugulethu (other townships where Blacks were relocated include Langa and Nyanga) under the infamous apartheid racist legislation called the Group Areas Act in the early '60's. During this period Mankunku was already performing as a musician. Among the Cape Town people who influenced Mankunku we can include the likes of Midge Pike, Parks Joya, Cups and Saucers and Merton Barrow. At an international level he was more influenced by the great John Coltrane who was perhaps Mankunku's greatest source of motivation and his respect for ‘Trane’ has lived on right through Mankunku's musical career.
One can not talk of South Africa’s Jazz without the impact of colonialism and racism. For colonialism, political and economic oppression was not enough with out cultural domination. Music as part of arts and culture was also to be put under the watchful eyes of the racist state as this could be used to convey protest messages and galvanise the masses against the regime. Therefore, the racist state intensified its control of arts and culture (including music) during the 60’s. This was followed by many South African musicians and singers of note opting for exile. These include the late Miriam Makeba and Bheki Mseleku. Hugh Masekela, Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani, and many others were also some of the musicians who could not bear the wrath of apartheid and opted for exile. The divide and rule used by the racist state even prevented South African musicians to play " across the colour line " (and this was in line with a plethora of racist laws preventing social interaction between South African people) and in ‘64 Mankunku did a concert at the Green Point Art Centre under the pseudonym Winston Mann and behind a curtain to avoid possible attention from the racist regime! Playing “across the colour line” was seen as a form of protest by the racist regime and Africans saw this as one step forward in the unity of the oppressed.
The 1960s – Yakhal’Nkomo ("the bellowing bull") album
In 1968 Mankunku recorded his debut album Yakhal’Nkomo together with Early Mabuza, Agrippa Magwaza and Lionel Pillay. Although he received the Castle Lager "Jazz Musician of the Year" in the same year, and despite the fact that the album sold well Mankunku hardly received financial benefits. Despite this Mankunku remained in South Africa and even refused to go to exile and instead took the music to the people through live performances. Over the years Mankunku has played with most of SA's top musicians including Victor Ntoni, Dollar Brand, Pat Matshikiza, Sandile Shanga and many others. He has also performed with many international musicians, including Jack Van Poll, Dave Young, Joe Henderson, Mike Rossi and many others.
The 1980s – Jika Album
Having been introduced in ‘76 by the late Johnny Gertze, Winston worked extensively with pianist\composer Mike Perry in the early 80’s and this led to the recording of the acclaimed album Jika in ‘87 as well as the formation of Winston and Mike's own label Nkomo Records. Jika's wide scope and excellent individual performances ensured its success both at home and abroad. It also contained strong protest songs like Wajikeleza and Asiyapo. Some of these songs reflected the political struggle and protest against the violence unleashed by the racist regime against Blacks in the townships during the mid 80’s.
The 1990s – Molo Africa (hello Africa)
Nkomo Records released Molo Africa in 1998, with distribution in areas other than Cape Town being put in the capable hands of Sheer Sound. The album features the hit song “A Song for Bra Des Tutu”, and features a total of 7 all new tracks with artists like Feya Faku, Tete Mbambisa, Errol Dyers, Basil Moses, Lionel Beukes and Vusi Khumalo, amongst others. Molo Africa won Winston a South African Music Award at the 1999 5th Annual FNB SAMA, in the category “Best Traditional Jazz”. After a break of about ten years Winston and Mike teamed up again and released Dudula in 1996.
The 2000s – Abantwana be Afrika (the children of Africa)
Winston Mankunku’s latest album ‘Abantwana be Afrika” was recorded in Johannesburg 2003. Featured artists include: Andile Yenana (piano), who also co-produced this album, Herbie Tsoaeli (bass), Prince Lengoasa (Trumpet / Flugelhorn) and Lulu Gontsana (Drums).
Isitya esihle asidleli
May his soul rest in peace.
More Articles in Community Articles
SFJAZZ Collective at the Ferguson Center in Newport News, Va.
Best of the Best for 2013
London-Based Label RareNoiseRecords Presents a Night of Progressive Music at Shapeshifter Lab, Dec. 13 at 8PM
Preparing For Fame
Kathryn Ballard Shut
New England Conservatory’s Jazz Lab
Tributes continue year after University of the Pacific alumnus Dave Brubeck’s death