In Their Own Words | David Koloane’s Jazz Chronicles

I think at heart I am a musician

I went to study at St. Peter’s Secondary School in Rosettenville. We used to go to the same church with Hugh Masekela, and he persuaded me to go there. It was a liberal school. Father Trevor Huddleston was the head, and he brought this trumpet for Hugh. I started collecting records that era, when the Huddleston Jazz Band was formed. We’d leave from Alex to Sophiatown to choose the records we wanted. That time, they would refer you to the Jewish old guy at the corner‘. Duke Ellington, Count Bassie.

Marabi, that sound reminded me of…you know, they used to have competitions [in Alexandra]. The African Swingsters would challenge Zakes Nkosi, and they would have a two-stage band. The whole night, it would be rocking. There was [also] a nightclub called paradise in the city centre, towards New Mai-Mai. When the clock struck 11pm, the police would come and wait to arrest anybody who goes out. Dorkay House was the centre. After the big bands, bo-Zakes Nkosi and Ntemi Piliso, a younger group of musicians came up, bo-Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand (before he became Abdullah Ibrahim), Kippie Moeketsi, that era of musicians — those were people in my age group. I was really into music. I had a cousin who used to play drums for Zakes Nkosi, so whenever he went to play, he’d ask me to come along. I used to enjoy those evenings.

The late Mackay Davashe became my neighbour in Orlando West, and that’s where I met most of the musicians. So I had more music friends than friends in the art world.

Batsumi actually started in my area, by this friend who passed away, Abel Maleka. We did their publicity. So I’ve been through that scene from that time ya ko-Alex up to now. I’ve always had this fortune to be associated with musicians.

  • This formed part a longer piece on the life and work of acclaimed South African artist Dr. David Koloane. This passage was cut out; it’s available in Sunday Times newspaper’s Lifestyle section
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