“Jonas Gwangwa rises to our great orchestra of musical ancestors, whose creative genius and commitment to the freedom of all South Africans inspired millions in our country and mobilized the international community against the apartheid system,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in a tribute.
Gwangwa’s musical activism was so strong that his home was bombed by apartheid forces in 1985, but he survived, Ramaphosa said in his tribute.
Gwangwa grew up in the Johannesburg community of Soweto and was known in 1959 as a member of the Jazz Epistles, which also included Masekela and Ibrahim. When the apartheid regime declared a state of emergency in 1960, it restricted jazz performances, which were viewed as promoting racial equality.
Gwangwa was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in 2010, the highest award in South Africa for outstanding contributions to art and culture.
He was nominated for an Oscar for music, which he composed in 1987 for the film “Cry Freedom” with Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.
Gwangwa’s death came on the anniversary of the deaths of his friends and African music giant Masekela and Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi, who died in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
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