Sounds of Sekoto

A year after the lost music of Gerard Sekoto, perhaps South Africa’s foremost pioneer painter, was discovered in an old suitcase in the storeroom of the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, a CD of his music is to be recorded by BMG Africa featuring the Blue Heads, a progressive Afro-fusion-jazz ensemble led by veteran jazz pianist, Dimpie Tshabalala.

The Blue Heads, so called in honour of Sekoto’s famous series of blue portraits based on a drawing of Miriam Makeba, are to feature alongside Judith Sephuma and Vusi Mahlasela during the jazz festival at the Spier Arts’s summer season in March. They will also play at the opening of the Constitutional Court — where a collection of Sekoto’s work will be on permanent display — before playing at the Grahamstown festival in July.

Barbara Lindop, Sekoto’s biographer, found the music as she was sorting through his papers, which were part of the artist’s effects returned to South Africa after his death.

Some of the songs had been published in Paris by Les Editions Musicales and had been performed in L’Eschelle Jacob, a jazz dive on the Left Bank.

After a great deal of work by Lindop and the group, rehearsals began late in 2002 as the 26 useable songs took their present form. The Blue Heads have now arranged the songs for a nine-piece band. The music is powerful and heart-rending — the songs reveal the poignant yet universal struggle for recognition and survival of the artistic spirit in exile.

French lyrics were in some cases added to the English words Sekoto had written, to expand the songs to a standard length. In the same way Zulu lyrics were added to other songs that had a distinctly African feel.

The Blue Heads comprise Tshabalala on piano and vocals, Isaac Mtshali on drums, lead guitarist Ntokozo Zungu, Mzwandile David on accordion, Abel Maleka on percussion and Stanley Mwamba, a French Congolese singer, while the band’s female vocalists Mthlodi Maphosa and Nlanhlanhla Mahlangu, add depth to the group.

The jazz festival is sponsored by the BMW Jazz Club, which has been active in promoting home-grown jazz.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…