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Gontsana, Lulu (South Africa)  
Lulu Gontsana

THE renowned producer-impresario Quincy Jones once remarked that South Africa is the “most musical place in the world" With its great Jazz tradition and fascinating urban, rural and multi-dimensional African influences, South Africa has spawned some of the worlds most acclaimed artists and dynamic music.

Marabi, maskanda, mbaqanga, bib band, R&B and classical jazz have all woven the unique fabric of South Africa’s highly developed musical culture. Rhythm lies at the heart of this culture, and Lulu Gontsana, Jr. is a true master of these extraordinary rhythms.

Through the inticasies of percussion and the power of the drum, Lulu Gontsana’s artistry is a gateway to diverse worlds of style and feeling. Whether he’s performing or recording or running a jazz workshop, Lulu Gontsana reaches his listeners and fellow artists with an infectious and inspiring depth of experience. Hence Lulu’s personal theme-“Each One Teach One."

Lulu Gontsana was born in Ibhayi, a black working class township near Port Elizabeth. Lulu’s grandfather was a Church organist and his father played trombone for Banacal Beans, a Port Elizabeth combo which emulated the style of musos such as Glen Miller and Duke Ellington. Through his father’s record collection, Lulu reveled in everything from American jazz to mbaqanga, and at the local shebeens Lulu was exposed to many different kinds of musicians and artists.

The families with gramophones helped Lulu “become an historian" and instilled in him an insatiable desire to learn music. When he was nine, Lulu was deeply influenced by Peter Jackson-a drummer for the Port Elizabeth Jazzmen-which eventually led to Lulu becoming a member of the band itself. In addition to working with Peter Jackson, Lulu was also tutored by Mafufy Jama, another Jazzmen drummer, while he keenly observed other drummers such as Early Mabuza and Gordon Mfando, searching for new styles and techniques.

drum (kit drums)
Genre: African Jazz, jazz
In 1981 Lulu felt the urge to broaden his musical horizons, so he left Port Elizabeth for the big city lights of Johannesburg. Soon after arriving in Jo-burg Lulu was invited by Spirits Rejoice to play under the wing of trumpeter George Tyhefumani and saxophonist Duke Makazi. Lulu also began freelancing for a number of musicians including Mike Makhalemele, Ezra Ngcukana and the legendary Winston Mankunku Ngozi.

As Lulu’s talent evolved, he was offered the Ronnie Madontsela Scholarship (1983) to the Jazz Studies Programme at the University of Natal, where he began studying for a three-year diploma. Lulu joined the University’s ensemble, the Jazzanians, which included some of South African’s best performers, such as Zim Ngqawana, Melvin Peters and Victor Masondo.

After receiving his diploma Lulu established himself as a respected accompanist for a variety of musicians. In the late eighties Lulu played with American organist Richard Govehomes in Europe and also performed with Abdullah Ibrahim in the United States. When Hugh Masekela returned to South Africa from exile in the early 90’s, Lulu became his choice drummer, while he also performed with Dave and Darius Brubeck.

In recent years Lulu has performed and recorded throughout the United States, Europe and South Africa with top local and international artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Miriam Makeba, Talib Kwepe, Oliver Jones, Barney Rachabane, Victor Ntoni, Jonas Gwangwa, Moses Molelekwa, Zin Mgqawana and McCoy Mrubata. In 1998 Lulu attended the International Jazz Educators Conference in New York, where he and Darius Brubeck presented a forum on South African jazz. Lulu also conducted Jazz workshops and performances at the United Nations and MiltonAcademy in Boston, reflecting his aspiration to spread the jazz tradition-particularly South African Jazz-to new audiences and future generations of aspiring musicians.

“Music is about communication and the ability to reach out and touch people through your composition and expression. Jazz itself is more than a style of music-it’s a way of life," Lulu says enthusiastically. He is optimistic about his music tradition. “South African Music has a bright future. There’s so much talent here. This universe, this part of Africa is ready for the world…”

Contact Details:

tel/fax: +27 11 642-56546
cell: +27 82 257-3121
P O Box 17896,
South Africa.

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