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Jonas Gwangwa, South African Music Legend Dies At 83

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Jonas Gwangwa South African anti-apartheid activist, composer, and jazz trombonist is dead. His death comes just days after his wife, Violet Molebatsi Gwangwa, died on 6th January 2021.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed the news of the singer’s death.

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

“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.” .Ramaphosa wrote in a statement.


Raised in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, Jonas Gwangwa was a member of the Jazz Epistles. The group had  Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, and Kippie Moeketsi. In 1960 When South Africa’s apartheid regime censored jazz performances and jailed Black people for congregating, Gwangwa chose to live in exile outside the country.

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Meanwhile, Gwangwa performed internationally in the following years using his music in service of activism. He was the musical director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, a group formed by African National Congress activists. His music for 1987’s Cry Freedom, earned Gwangwa two Oscar nominations. “Cry Freedom” is about anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline. In 1985, he reportedly survived a bombing of his home by apartheid security forces.


In 2010, Gwangwa received honour in the Order of Ikhamanga, South Africa’s highest honour. His passing also coincides with the three-year anniversary of the death of his friend and collaborator, Hugh Masekela.


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