Bay tribute to the late Bra Zim Ngqawana

Jazz night and dance season at the PE Opera House will focus on his music

Top jazz musicians and a troupe of dancers will pay tribute to the late Bay saxophonist Zim Ngqawana in two shows coming up at the PE Opera House.

The Opera House is presenting the Mandela Bay Jazz Legacy Festival on Saturday November 24 with East London singer Msaki, Bay saxophonist Lefa Mosea and the Zim Ngqawana Tribute Big Band.

It is also producing Dear Zim, We Dance Like This from November 28 to Saturday December 1 with choreography by Cape Town dance teacher and choreographer Mzo Gasa.

Conceptualised by Opera House general manager Monde Ngonyama, Dear Zim, We Dance Like This will be set to music by Ngqawana.

Bay musicians Bongani Tulwana, who knew the late Ngqawana, and Temba Ncetani have assembled the tribute band for next weekend’s show.

“We have a 20-piece band of youth and adults, and we will be playing the whole spectrum of life which Bra Zim composed, from kindergarten to those who are dead,” Tulwana said at the launch this week at the Opera House.

The New Brighton legend not only played the saxophone; he also played the piano, piccolo, double-head flute, concert flute, harmonica, melodica and percussion.

He died at the relatively young age of 51 in 2011, while living in Johannesburg, after a second stroke during rehearsals for a concert there.

Ngqawana – later known as Zimology, which was also the title of one of his albums – left a rich catalogue of jazz compositions and also was also known for his legacy as a jazz philosopher, musical visionary and mentor.

He shared his birthday on December 25 with Lucky, his firstborn son, who is now 38 and who spoke at the launch.

“I was privileged to be part of his band travelling with him,” Lucky said, singling out the song his father composed for him as a precious memory.

The Dance Season in the Barn Theatre of Dear Zim, We Dance Like This rounds off the tribute to Ngqawana.

Former Jazz art choreographer Gasa, who is Durban-born and lives in Cape Town has extensive international experience. He said he “grew up listening to Bra Zim”.

However, the call from Ngonyama meant he had to shift his focus as “I call my work black pain, I don’t choreograph celebration and here I am asked to choreograph a celebration for a legend!”

“The minute I heard I was to be choreographing, I started reading his biography. I wanted to meet the family members to know what they are about and so we met and I listened to Lucky speaking about this great guy.”

As he revisited the music and immersed himself in the life of Ngqawana, Gasa said he was “trying to create the story in my head” to give a spine to his choreography.

“We workshopped the production, I came up with the language and gave it to the dancers to work with so it’s a two-way street – we are all choreographers.

“And this music is amazing, you have no idea!” he said, turning to Lucky and saying: “We want to thank your father for that – we thank the legend.”

Mandela Bay Jazz Legacy Festival is at 7pm.

Dear Zim, We Dance Like This is also at 7pm each night with an additional performance on Saturday December 1 at 2pm.

Tickets are R100 (R150 double) on sale at Computicket.