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Laka, Don (South Africa)  
Don Laka

DON Laka was born in 1958 near Pretoria in Mamelodi, the first child in a family of five.In 1969 he formed his first band and made his first recording in 1972 which featured Ray Phiri on guitar.

After passing his matric in 1978 he started formal music lessons, obtaining his licentiate in high school music teaching in 1979. From 1980 to 1981 he joined the afro-fusion group Sakhile, that was formed by Sipho Gumede and Khaya Mahlangu. The group revolutionized South African music, and set a trend for groups like Bayete.

Don recorded his first big hit with the group which was called ‘Oneness' before moving to form his own band with ‘Chicco' Twala, called ‘Image' The group lasted for 10 years. In the 10 years they have recorded no less than 12LP’s, and in 1986 they were spotted by one of the top producers in the world, Tony Visconti, who has produced 10 of David Bowie’s albums, Paul McCartney T Rex, Moody Blues and one of the classic songs of our time “I HATE MONDAYS"
During the same period Don ventured into recording solo LP;s and producing other artists. His songs and piano playing proved to be popular with other musicians, who then asked if he could write, produce or perform on their records. Brenda Fassie is one artist who has performed some of Don’s music.

piano, arranger
Genre: jazz, mbaqanga, fusion
He appeared on most of Sankomota’s albums as a string and keyboard arranger. 1990 was another turning point in his career. He started writing big orchestral arrangements for Sibongile Khumalo, who performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa. In 1991 he also collaborated with Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Rebecca Malope.

His career blossomed further by producing and performing with artists such as Ray Phiri and Sipho Mabuse. He is now regarded as one of South Africa’s premier producers, having produced for Mango Groove, Sharon Dee and Johnny Clegg amongst others.

Don started a Record Company together with a friend Oscar Mdlongwa called Kalawa Records. This is a truly first successful black record company in South Africa, which recorded, produced and marketed their own product without the help of any major label. They started selling records from the boot of their cars and formed a bigger structure.

Kalawa have achieved Triple, Double Platinum plus three Gold albums and are responsible for much of the new music that has changed the country's youth today - notably with the topselling group Boom Shaka.

Don sat on a panel together with Hugh Masekela and Mzwakhe Mbuli that submitted a draft on South African (Local Music Content) Quota to the Independent Broadcasting Authority in November 1994 and was one of the speakers regarding the issue on Quality and Standard of South African Music.
  Recordings : Laka, Don




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