Jonas Gwangwa, South African Jazz Musician and Activist, Dead at 83

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Jonas Gwangwa—the South African anti-apartheid activist, composer, and jazz trombonist—has died, NPR reports. The information was confirmed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. “A large of our revolutionary cultural motion and our democratic inventive industries has been known as to relaxation,” Ramaphosa wrote in a statement. “The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has misplaced its life drive.” Gwangwa was 83. 

Raised within the Johannesburg township of Soweto, Gwangwa was a member of the Jazz Epistles alongside Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, and Kippie Moeketsi. When South Africa’s apartheid regime censored jazz performances in 1960 and jailed Black individuals for congregating, Gwangwa selected to reside in exile outdoors the nation. 

Gwangwa carried out internationally within the ensuing years and continued to make use of his music in service of activism. He was the musical director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble—a gaggle fashioned by African Nationwide Congress activists. His music for 1987’s Cry Freedom, a movie about anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline, earned Gwangwa two Oscar nominations. In 1985, he reportedly survived a bombing of his residence by apartheid safety forces. 

In 2010, Gwangwa was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga—South Africa’s highest honor. His demise falls on the three-year anniversary of the demise of his pal and collaborator Hugh Masekela.



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