Robbie Jansen dead at 61

Robbie Jansen has died. Born Robert Edward Jansen in 1949, the alto saxophonist, composer, arranger and flautist was one of the central exponents in that genre called Cape jazz.

While the alto saxophone and flute were his instruments of choice, Jansen laid these over a medley of traditional Cape Malay ghoema, African rhythms, funk and salsa.

His sound, especially on the album Vastrap, evoked that initial encounter between the European and the Khoisan (the Vastrap, or Hop Dance is a Khoi dance that showed satisfaction after a successful barter transaction).

Jansen was loved and respected, especially in Cape Town.
When he fell ill in 2005, the provincial government announced they would pay his medical bills.

The first instruments he played were the concertina and mouth organ before opting to play the alto saxophone and flute after being exposed to black American music on a visit to the United Kingdom.

He played the flute and saxophone on Juluka’s debut album Universal Men and also played with Pacific Express and Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) and his old friend, Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee.

Some of his solo and collaborative albums include: The Cape Doctor, Sabenza, Vastrap Island. Nomad Jazz was nominated for a SAMA award in the best jazz album of the year category.

A committed anti-apartheid activist, Jansen was a fixture at gatherings and events in the 1980s.

In March 2007 his doctors announced he could no longer travel long distances by air due to respiratory complications.

Percy Zvomuya

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