The trombonist died two weeks after his wife's death

Legendary jazz maestro and activist Jonas Gwangwa has died

Jonas Gwangwa performing at Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in Johannesburg. The jazz artist died on Saturday at 83-years- old.
Jonas Gwangwa performing at Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in Johannesburg. The jazz artist died on Saturday at 83-years- old.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Legendary jazz music maestro and activist Jonas Gwangwa has died.

Gwangwa who died on Saturday at the age of 83, has had persistent health issues for the last two years ago. The trombonist died just two weeks after his wife Violet Molebatsi Gwangwa died.

He also died on the same date that his fellow jazz artists Hugh Masekela and Oliver Mtukudzi died on.

Gwangwa, is one of the music legends who fought the apartheid government and was  even forced into exile in the 1970s.

His prominence internationally began in 1965 where he was featured in a Sound of Africa concert at Carnegie Hall in the USA with the likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Letta Mbulu.

Despite his international fame, he was constantly harassed by the regime until he fled to Botswana. From 1980 to 1990, he was the leader of Amandla, the cultural ensemble of the African National Congress.

The Dikgomo hit-maker later composed scores for films like Cry Freedom.  He also composed a music score for Generations: The Legacy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa defined Gwangwa as a giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and democratic creative industries.

“The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has lost its life force. Jonas Gwanga 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 mobilised the international community against the apartheid system. In our hour of mourning the loss of many precious lives around us, we pray also that the soul of Jonas Gwangwa will rest in peace.”

Music promoter and a friend Sam Mhangwane whose working relationship with Gwangwa began while he was still in Botswana said his death was a great loss to the industry.

“He is one of the pillars of the Tribute Concert alongside Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. I’ve known Jonas before he even got married to his wife. He played a big role in the formation of Amandla and contributed to the struggle through music.”

President of South African Music Industries Council China Mpololo said: “On behalf of the entire music we pass our heart-felt condolences to the family and fans of the legend Jonas Gwangwa. Bra Jonas" contribution to the sector cannot be merged with anyone. We are grateful for such talent as the industry. It was an honour to have lived and witness his legacy. When working with him he was a  very professional and understanding even under difficult circumstances.”

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