Funeral service of Winston ‘Mankunku’ Monwabisi Ngozi
Members of the Ngozi family
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the Ministry and Department of Arts and Culture, we are here to pay our last respects to Winston ‘Mankunku’ Monwabisi Ngozi, a great and multi-talented artist and musician and a true son of the South African soil.
He was a true son because where he lived and whatever he touched, would turn into music.
He had the extraordinary intellect and ability in a quiet and unassuming way to make notes with his hands and produce sounds with his mouth that resonated with an entire nation.
His music moved us and spoke so profoundly to the world about our struggle and also about the human condition.
In the dark days of the struggle against apartheid, in his own way he set fire to the spirit of liberation by giving us “Yakhal’Inkomo” in 1968 – a song and an entire album that inspired South Africans at home and also in exile to greater heights and gave us all a sense of belonging and cultural pride.
It seems as if he had spent his entire life listening to our pain, our joy, our suffering and our happiness - and out of this awareness he created precisely the sound of the South African soul. In this way he gave us back a sense of identity and a deep awareness of hope in our everyday lives.
His work further awakened a consciousness in all of us to believe in our dreams and to fight to achieve our freedom.
Among his great works, I am also reminded of the album ‘Jika’ in 1987 which he did with Mike Perry and performed with Bheki Mseleku and Lucky Ranku.
Every decade saw him take on new musical challenges to expand the limits of jazz music. And always a team player, he would strike up new partnerships and renew old friendships both internationally and at home.
He played with the likes of Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Barney Rachabane and Victor Ntoni and with many international musicians including Chick Corea, Jack Van Poll, Toots Thielemans, Manu Dibango Dave Young and Mike Rossi.
Mankunku’s work continued to withstand the test of time as he recently did a DVD recording with an orchestrated concert featuring Darryl Andrews Big Band, pianist Andile Yenana, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt, Mike Perry, 12 backing vocalists and many more musicians.
He was an evergreen - his music spoke not only to one particular time but to all times and to all people, since jazz has also become a universal music form that appeals to all nations and to all humanity.
We must not forget that his contribution to our music came at great cost to himself. All through his life, Mankunku remained firmly located on South African soil and he endured the suffering in Cape Town at a time when other cultural workers fled apartheid and the effects it had on their music and restrictions on their lives.
Yet his music was that of an artist who was very much part of a wider world. His body of work came under the cross pollination from African-American influences. This showed an artist who embraced internationalism – for how can we not remember his tribute to Coltrane.
He had been affected by the forced removals that took him and his family out of Retreat to Gugulethu – yet even from this location, a place intended to narrow his vision and destroy creativity, his music lived on and flourished and retained the influences of the world. He gave new meaning to the notion of Cape music and South African jazz. And he helped to put Gugulethu on to the cultural map. He did exactly what apartheid leaders did not want – he achieved a unity-in-diversity that fought against notions of separate development.
We know that apartheid repression forced him at times even to adopt a stage name (Winston Mann) and to play behind a curtain because he was not allowed to perform with others of a different race group. Yet his music opened doors for others and broke the barriers that sought to keep people apart. In this way a new musical language was born and a cultural vocabulary for articulating our freedom.
His music was not only about self-expression, but began a dialogue about reality, which condemned oppression and sought to further humanize us to propel us to greater freedom. It is this dialogue that music creates which we need to take forward into the future.
He lived to experience 15 years of freedom. In this space of time, much has been done to improve the lives of our artists and musicians. Freedom of speech and creativity is a cornerstone of our new constitution and part of our vibrant democracy.
But many challenges remain.
In recent meetings that I have had with the music sector, our musicians have referred to a number of issues preventing their full participation in the economy and their full contribution in enriching our cultural life.
• We have to face the challenge that while music is crucial for social and economic development, the sector is still unknown to many policy makers. It is in this area of work that we need to do much more to improve our artists’ lives.
• Music education can also be better supported. Many tertiary institutions in SA do not have a syllabus focusing on business aspects of becoming part of this industry. Without the necessary business knowledge, artists are exploited.
• Mankunku had the foresight together with Mike Perry to initiate their own record label. Today this remains a revolutionary act in an industry dominated by multinationals.
• More work also needs to be done around Intellectual Property ownership. Weak Intellectual Property enforcement also leads to infringement, widespread piracy and non-compliance by music users.
• Artists are also rightfully concerned that our air time is still dominated by foreign artists and local content is not given the respect and coverage it deserves.
• The administration of royalties needs better regulation.
• Above all, musicians are also at a disadvantage because of fragmentation of the sector with many people working in silos.
In memory of Mankunku and in his honour, led us pledge to address these problems together. Let us pledge to work towards the unity of the music sector.
Let us pledge to do more to find effective mechanisms through which we can provide social security for our artists.
Together we must do more to ensure that our artists can record all their music in studios owned by our people.
The Department earlier this year publicized its efforts through our purchase of the Downtown Studios in Johannesburg. Together let us ensure that we can use this platform as one that promotes music heritage as well as the production of new work.
Together we must also do more to ensure that local content is the order of the day. And we dare not fail. We cannot go on in this way that when we listen to our stations we think that we are in a foreign country.
It is our music that makes us more at home with ourselves.
And Mankunku, when he blew his horn, gave us as South Africans a renewed sense of being at home in the world.
As the Department of Arts and Culture, we also pledge that we shall make of his life’s work a living heritage. My Ministry, at present, is discussing making this a reality with other stakeholders.
On behalf of my Ministry and Department, I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to the Ngozi family. May we also thank you for allowing him to devote his life to making music for the nation.
We wish the family strength as you come to terms with your loss.
Indeed we have lost a great son of our soil who taught us so much and devoted his intellect in bringing about a better South Africa and a more productive people.
Let your consolation be that he has left a rich legacy for future generations.
He will continue to live on through the memories we share of him and through his powerful music.
We honour Mankunku for his contribution in bringing us so far on this journey. We shall continue along this collective journey towards the full attainment of our freedom, which he helped to reveal and to shape with his music.
We are proud to take up the baton from where he has left off.
Lala ngoxolo qabane.
I thank you.