It was announced at the 15th Annual ACT Awards that Jonas Gwangwa was the recipient of the ACT Lifetime Achievement Award for Music 2012. 

Gwangwa received his award from Mpho Molepo, an ACT Trustee, and the COO of the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), Bronwen Harty at an elegant luncheon and award ceremony at the Fairway Hotel & Golf Resort, Johannesburg.

The ACT Lifetime Achievement Award for Music is sponsored by SAMRO. 

The ACT Lifetime Achievement Awards honour arts professionals whose extraordinary careers have had a profound and lasting impact on arts, culture and heritage. Together with Gwangwa three other luminaries also received Lifetime Achievement awards for their contribution to the arts: Andrew Verster for Visual Arts, Welcome Msomi for Theatre and author Nadine Gordimer for the newly inaugurated Literature award. 

“The Arts & Culture Trust is honoured to be presenting this great South African musician with this Award. His life and music career have significantly supported transformation in South Africa, his work consistently met the highest international standards and he has made great advancements for South Africa in the global creative market. His commitment to the struggle to end apartheid and his belief that politics and culture cannot be separated is intrinsic to his music”, said ACT Trustee Mpho Molepo, upon presenting him with his award. 

The Soweto-born Jonas Gwangwa is a product of the turbulent, but musically significant 1950’s. He electrified the famous Sophiatown music scene and blazed a fiery trail in South Africa by establishing, and playing with virtually every important band of the era, including the Jazz Epistles, a group that included such icons as Kippie Moeketsi, Abdullah Ibrahim, Johnny Gertse and Makhaya Ntshoko. 

He left South Africa in 1961 to tour England with the hit musical “King Kong”. He then went to the United States to further his musical education at New York’s prestigious Manhattan School of Music. He stayed in the US for 15 years and got his American “break” through the patronage of musical legend Harry Belafonte. 

Believing that “politics and culture cannot be separated,” Gwangwa’s total commitment to the struggle to end apartheid is intrinsic to his music. An official “enemy of the state” for many years, he narrowly escaped death in 1985 when his home was blown up by South African security forces.

 His lifework crystallised when he served as composer, arranger and musical director of “Amandla”, the much-heralded worldwide ANC cultural ensemble tour to which he devoted ten years of his life. He joined forces with George Fenton to create the original score and theme song for the Richard Attenborough film, “Cry Freedom” and the score received Oscar, Grammy, Bafta, Golden Globe and Anthony Asquith award nominations and won the Ivor Novello and Black Emmy Awards. Other musical scores and theme music include, “South African Olympic Bid” (1997); “African American Summit” (1997) and “The Beer with the Taste of Time” – a Vivo beer commercial jingle (1996).

 Gwangwa returned to South Africa in 1991. His lifelong dream of freedom was realised in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected president of a democratic South Africa.

 The 2012 ACT Awards ceremony was sponsored by the Vodacom Foundation, SAMRO, the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO) and Media24 Books. Supporters of the 15th ACT Awards included: Distell Foundation; Classicfeel Magazine; Business and Arts South Africa (BASA); and The Fairway Hotel & Golf Resort.

 The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) is South Africa’s premier, independent arts and culture funding and development agency. This awards event now celebrating fifteen years, has recognised more than 350 individuals and organisations that have made significant contributions to cultural life in South Africa. 

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