When looking at this song, the obvious question for those (like me) who are not all that clued up on South African jazz, is ‘Who is Johnny Dyani’. Well the answer is that Johnny was a respected jazz double bassist hailing from Duncan Village just outside East London. He was one of the founding members of The Blue Notes, which was the first jazz band in SA to feature both black and white musicians. Over time his reputation grew and he went on to play with international jazz musicians such as Don Cherry, Steve Lacy and Dave Murray. Johnny died suddenly in October 1986 at the young age of 40
Sipho Gumede was another of our talented jazz musicians and was obviously influenced by, and probably friends with, Johnny. ‘Song For Johnny Dyani’ is a beautiful tribute to the man who died so young. It is laid back jazz that is perfect for just sitting and listening to with only your memories for company. The sound is warm enough to ensure that the memories don’t become morbid, but rather they tease the good times out of you mind so you are left with a warm, slightly melancholic feeling.
Sipho died in the July of 2004 at age 66 and I am sure that those who knew him well would be able to put on ‘Song For Johnny Dyani’ and quite easily imagine it being re-titled ‘Song For Sipho Gumede’ as it would bring to mind his relaxed jazz guitar playing and his gentle soul. RIP Johnny, RIP Sipho, you are both remembered through the music you gave us.
Where to find it:
Sipho Gumede – Down Freedom Avenue (1994), M.E.L.T. 2000, BWSA051