SAMRO mourns the loss of three legends of the SA music industry – and would like to extend deep condolences to the family and friends of musicians Xoli Nkosi and Victor [Bra Vic] Ntoni; and engineer Andile (Kentse) Mpahlwa. 

As individuals, each of these music-makers made an invaluable contribution to our country, enriching our environment with their unique artistry. Interestingly, they also shared a common commitment to empowering others – they were teachers and mentors to many, and with selfless dedication to the development and empowerment of future generations, they generously imparted their skills. 

When Xoli Nkosi [1975 – 2013] died on 10 January, at the age of 37, after a brief illness resulting from Guillian-Barre Syndrome [a rare disorder of the immune and outer nervous systems, word went around among his peers and protégés that “a university has closed down.” 

A specialist of synthesized keyboard, Xoli was also a respected piano player, vocalist, composer and arranger.  Having graduated from the University of KZN, he performed and recorded with many top artists, including [the late] Sipho Gumede, Concord Nkabinde, Andy Narell, Khaya Mahlangu, Joyous Celebration, Abigail Kubeka and many more. Besides being much in demand as a session musician, he also released a solo album, ‘Sangena’ in 2004. 

Award-winning engineer, Andile (Kentse) Mpahlwa [1962 – 2013], who passed away after a 2-year battle with cancer on 26th January 2013, also left a legacy through the knowledge he imparted. Known to his peers as Kentse, he first impacted on the local scene in 1986, when, after graduating in Atlanta, Georgia USA, he became the first black qualified Sound Engineer in SA. 

Highly regarded for his skills, as both a studio and live engineer, he worked with top local and international artists, such as Caiphus Simenya, Letta Mbuli, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Sibongile Khumalo, Ringo Madlingozi, Hugh Masekela, Hotstix Mabuse, Stimela, Joyous Celebration and many more. Kentse, was one of the directors of Gearhouse SA, the owner of Mageek Music; and he also played a crucial role in the production of major events, including the Macufe Festival, the ANC Centenary celebrations and the Inaugural SA Sports Awards. 

Then, on Monday 28 January one of SA’s great jazz icons Victor Ntoni, died at the age of 65, from a heart attack. With a career spanning over 40 years, Bra Vic was best known as an internationally acclaimed bassist.  He was also a composer, singer and arranger who began as a vocalist with the legendary group, the Dollar Brand Trio. It was only in his late-twenties, after teaching himself guitar, that he inadvertently began playing bass when his band’s bassist didn’t show up for a gig. 

In 1976 he went on to study bass at the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston, USA; and although this remained his primary instrument, he always remembered his musical roots and remained a master of harmonies.  This was brilliantly portrayed in his long-awaited debut solo album, ‘Heritage’. Released in 2004, it ironically didn’t feature him on bass – instead, it was vocal album that came about as the result of his instruments being stolen just prior to the recording, so his wife suggested he sing instead! 

A true jazz legend, Victor Ntoni worked with a broad range of young and old musicians, including Hugh Masekela, Abigail Kubeka and DJ Black Coffee.  Honouring his musical heritage, he passionately extended the memory of South Africa’s great jazz stars, like Kippie Moeketsi, Todd Matshikiza and Winston Ngozi, through his own music, and through his long involvement in music tuition. 

Speaking of Ntoni’s death, president Jacob Zuma said:

“Our music industry has yet again been robbed of an icon that was instrumental in promoting and making jazz music popular in our country. Ntoni gave his best to the industry, and also invested a lot in promoting South African music and empowering up and coming musicians. We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Mr Ntoni. They are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time of mourning. May his soul rest in peace.”