World-renowned trumpeter and head of the Gauteng Music Academy, Johnny Mekoa has died.
The family of the veteran jazz musician has confirmed his death. Details reveal he died at his Crystal Park home, east of Johannesburg on Monday afternoon. He was 72.
His daughter Malebo Mekoa described him as a “big gentle giant with a deep smile”.
“He was a father to those who are fatherless. He loved his life, his music and his children,” Malebo said.
Johnny as he’s popularly known almost gave up on his talent as he was denied the opportunity to study music during apartheid because he was black. Nevertheless, he played his horn at nightclubs and was an inspiration to many. He almost went into exile in 1962. However, he was persuaded to stay by the legendary Caiphus Semenya.
Following the death of this rare gem, several personalities including the president of the country paid tribute to him.
Managing Director of SAMRO Foundation where Johnny served on its board from 1996 to 2011 reminisced on the time spent with the legend.
“He was the kind of person who always had a warm smile and a word of advice in some of the gatherings we attended,” said André le Roux.
Also, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said;
“We are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of the trumpet player and head of the Gauteng Music Academy, Johnny Mekoa. The nation has lost one of its most talented and selfless musical sons.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Zuma said;
“We have lost a remarkable musician and teacher who contributed immensely to the music sector and selflessly imparted his musical knowledge and skills to aspirant musicians, especially children from poor backgrounds.
“May his legacy be an inspiration to others to be selfless teachers in different fields, in order to build a better and prosperous South Africa. We wish to convey our sincere condolences to the Mekoa family and the music industry at large. May his soul rest in peace.”
Details for the funeral are expected to be released later this week.
Lesser-known facts about Johnny Mekoa
Johnny Mekoa was born in Benoni in 1945. Despite the circumstances at the time, he didn’t give up on his love for music. Thus, he inspired a slew of the younger generations with his determination.
Mekoa established the Gauteng Music Academy in 1994. The academy focused on teaching jazz music to local communities and the youth.
At the age of 41, Mekoa started formal tertiary studies in music and earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the then University of Natal. He later bagged a Masters Degree in Music at the University of Indiana in the United States with the help of a Fulbright Scholarship.
Mekoa also played a very important role in the establishment of the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival which takes place annually during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
In 2015, Zuma conferred the veteran with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, an award given to South African citizens who have excelled in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.
Accordingly, Mekoa’s contribution to music and arts education was rewarded with several awards and two honorary doctorates.