Music legend Komani on a mission to revive the “little town of jazz”


DIFFERENT NOTE: Jazz maestro Mlungisi Gegana is on a mission to restore Komani to its former glory and status as a “little jazz town” Photo: SUPPLIED

Mlungisi Gegana is a name that does not need to be introduced. Among Stompi Mavi, Margaret Mcinganga and Jordan Bangazi, his name is comfortable and he can be considered another legend of the “small town of jazz”.

Born in 1961, he couldn’t have expected that the days spent strumming an oil tin guitar would lead to a whirlwind adventure across the world and see him celebrated as one of the best double bass guitarists in the world. country.

His childhood was devoted to “liberating the music” inspired by Johnny Dyani, an anti-apartheid activist and a man, whose music he discovered playing in the club scene around Cape Town. He told the Mail & Guardian in 2003: “I have always shied away from the influence of other musicians. I don’t like this thing that there is an identifiable “Berklee sound” or even a “UCT sound”. But when I listened to Johnny, he wasn’t like anyone else. He was always looking for a new sound. I thought, this is what I want to do; this one can influence me!

With three albums in his discography, One Step Forward released in 2004 and I Am Who Am I in 2014, he forged his own path, sharing the stage and working with the biggest names in music across different genres. He has appeared on the albums of Thandiswa Mazwai, McCoy Mrubata and Sivile, among others. He has toured extensively in Scandinavia, conducted an international quintet at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival which paid homage to Johnny Dyani, and was regularly presented at the Grahamstown Arts Festival.

He’s now on a different mission – putting Komani in his place musically. “I saw the situation at home and wanted to develop our music industry,” Gegana said.

He launched the Mlungisi Music Academy in 2018 to help local young people who are passionate about music, but may not have access to the competitive industry. He is also a founding member of the Sounds and Rhythm Music Association (Sarma). “A lot of artists don’t have the know-how to break into the industry. The goal is to empower them while teaching music to the younger generation.

Sarma has embarked on an ambitious project. By bringing together outstanding musicians around the city under a common vision and purpose, Sarma creates space for young and old to come and define what music will be like in Komani over the next 10 years. “People like Malibongwe Mtsabe, Mike Ntwasa and Thembelani Ntaba responded very positively when I broached the idea. The artists come from communities and are part of families / If we can help them make a living from their music, we will have achieved our goal, ”he said.

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