JOHANNESBURG – South Africans are mourning the passing of legendary Jazz star Jonas Gwangwa, whose music powered the anti-apartheid struggle.
The globally recognized and awarded composer, producer, and jazz trombonist, whose music career spanned four decades, died on Saturday. He was 83.
“A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest; the trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has lost its life force,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement.
Ramaphosa said Gwangwa narrowly escaped death in 1985 when his home was blown up by the apartheid security forces.
“Jonas Gwangwa ascends to our great orchestra of musical ancestors whose creative genius and dedication to the freedom of all South Africans inspired millions in our country and mobilized the international community against the apartheid system,” Ramaphosa said, describing the late jazz star as a product of the turbulent but musically significant 1950s, and added that his songs powered the struggle against the white minority rule.
“As we mourn the loss of many precious lives around us, we pray also that the soul of Jonas Gwangwa will rest in peace,” he also said.
South African journalist Tim Modise wrote on Twitter: “Bra Jonas Gwanga. You glorified South Africa around the world for years. We thank you for the music.”
John Kani, a South African artist, also said in a tweet: “The maestro Jonas Gwanga has passed away today. I have no words to express my grief. To his family, the arts community shares your pain. Bra Jonas rest in eternal peace.”