Khanyile, Afro Jazz Giant Dies

He became a cultural ambassador who helped to shape the contemporary Afro jazz music genre. Separately, the legendary Hugh Masekela paid tribute to this giant, during his recent performance in New York City.

(Afro Jazz king Jabu Khanyile).
The death of award-winning Afro Jazz artist Jabu Khanyile has robbed Africa and the world of an authoritative voice of a musical genius who churned out hits that spoke about the daily struggles of the people.

Khanyile was widely respected in South Africa and through his music; he became a cultural ambassador who helped to shape the contemporary Afro jazz music genre. Separately, the legendary Hugh Masekela paid tribute to this giant, during his recent performance in New York City.

In South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and other countries in the region and elsewhere in the world, there was glowing praise for Khanyile who often carried a flywhisk he was given by an elderly Kenyan in 1994. The Soweto-born artist and his band, Bayethe, in the 1980s and 1990s produced hits like Mbube, Zabalaza, Mbombela, Mmalo-we and Umkhaya-lo.

He walked with the masses and his music spoke out and was relevant to their daily struggles. It is widely agreed that he spoke of lives and concerns of the ordinary people and understood that culture was a powerful weapon in the war against apartheid.

The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions said, “As well as being an exceptionally talented musician, he was a man who never forgot his roots in the working class. Workers have lost a friend and an ally who spoke for all out people.�

The labor movement described Khanyile as “a humble and down to earth person who never allowed fame to go to his head.” Khanyile was a Pan Africanist who staunchly defended African music at various international music festivals and who was devoted to sharing the stage with other African musical greats such as Youssou N’Dour, Papa Wemba and Oliver Mtukudzi. “Jabu was a friend,â€? Zimbabwe’s musical icon Mtukudzi said. “He supported me not because of our friendship but because of concerns we shared. His death is really a shock. It’s devastating for the music industry.”

Khanyile was a pivotal figure in the evolving conception of Afro jazz music. His penetrating jazz hits fused tradition with contemporary tempo and style creating unique musical rhythms that captivated audiences all over the world.
He traveled widely and his look, his lifestyle and his blend of music added a fresh dimension to renaissance in the world of jazz.

Known in some circles as the Prince, Khanyile performed in the UK in 1996, Sweden in 1997, the Reunion an Indian Ocean island, Germany, Kenya and almost all countries in the entire southern African region. He was laid to rest at moving ceremony on November 17 at Avlon cemetery in Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg. The funeral was attended by all the who’s who of South African music, his family and friends.

More than 100 artistes and fans paid their respects at this funeral that evoked a sense of tradition, love and a celebrated everything African. Hits like No Work, Zabalaza –meaning to resist, was banned in South Africa during the apartheid era. Tracks such as Dimazane and Kutheni na? Which simply means, “What is happening?â€? was a song that questioned the violence in Black townships.

“Bayete, fronted by Jabu Khanyile, a brilliant performer in his own right is considered as one of music’s most original and compelling artistes, a past mast at lyrical interpretation who mesmerizes audiences with his hypnotic, spellbinding and unique Afro musical style,” Terrence Mapurisana, a respected Zimbabwean art critic voice has written.

Khanyile’s music repertoire included mbaqanga, Afro fusion, traditional Zulu dance melodies and moving ballads. “It’s a little bit of everything,” Jabu once remarked when he came to Zimbabwe. His music in many ways called African people back to their roots and basic cultural values –Ubuntu. He died at his home in Soweto after losing a long battle against prostate cancer and diabetes.

He leaves behind his two wives Phindy Dlamini and Khululiwe Sithole and seven children. Khanyile was born in Soweto on February 8, 1957 and joined the band Bayete in 1984 as a drummer. He rose to fame in the 1980s as the leading vocalist of Bayete producing hits such as Mbube, Mbombela, and many others.
In 1993, he went solo and released a total of eighth albums with the backing of Bayete. Khanyile was the 1996 winner of the Kora Best South African Artist award. He also scooped another musical award in 2000 for his album the Prince. There is no doubt that his music demonstrated the irresistible and treasured appeal of African rhythms. He was a driving force of contemporary jazz and ranked highly among other talented artistes such as trumpeter Hugh Masekela, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim “Dollar Brand,” jazz artistes Caiphus Semenya, Letta Mbulu, Miriam Makeba and Jonas Gwangwa among others.

His death, November 11, made news all over the world, not because he was celebrated jazz musician but because of the sheer scale of his work that helped promote the appeal and significance of Afro jazz music turning it into a phenomenal success. In addition, just as the best-known and most influential jazz musician in the last half century Miles Davis was to America so was Jabu Khanyile to Africa and the entire world.

As we observe in this part of our common earth, Lala ngokuthula. Lala Ngoxolo (May his soul rest in peace). 
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