Jonas Gwangwa, the “giant” of South African jazz, dies at the age of 83

South African jazz trombonist and composer Jonas Gwangwa, whose music fueled the fight against apartheid, died on Saturday at the age of 83, the presidency announced.

President Cyril Ramaphosa led tributes to the legendary musician who was nominated for an Oscar for the theme song to the 1987 film “Cry Freedom.”

“A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest,” Ramaphosa said.

“The trombone that exploded boldly and bravely, and also warmed our hearts with sweet melody has lost its life force,” the president added.

There were no immediate details on how or where Gwangwa died.

He died on the third anniversary of the death of “father of South African jazz” Hugh Masekela and the second anniversary of the death of Zimbabwean musical legend Oliver Mtukudzi. January 23 had become “the day the music died”, South African media and others said.

Gwangwa was born in October 1937 in Soweto and went on to have a career spanning 40 years.

“He thrilled Sophiatown audiences until it became illegal for black people to congregate and South African musicians were imprisoned simply for practicing their craft,” the presidential statement read.

He was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga, South Africa‘s highest national honor given for achievement in the fields of art and culture, in 2010.

The award recognizes his work as composer, arranger and musical director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, a cultural group formed by African National Congress activists in the 1970s.

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