Minister Nathi Mthethwa on the Passing of Internationally Acclaimed SA Jazz Musician, Mabi Gabriel Thobejane

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04 Jun 2021

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has learnt of the passing of master percussionist and freedom stalwart, Mabi Gabriel Thobejane, who passed away on Thursday 3 June.

Thobejane was born in the township of Mamelodi, where he developed an obsession for drumming after having been influenced by the women of the Balobedu tribe who resided in his neigborhood. From then on, he would embark on a passionate cultural mission that took him across the world in search of musical and spiritual freedom.

His talent was noticed by his uncle, Phillip Tabane, who recruited him as a drummer to form what became one of South Africa’s top bands in the 70’s. He toured internationally with the Malombo Jazzmen and during this time was exposed to music of the African diaspora. After having toured the United States and England, he returned to South Africa at the height of apartheid in 1976, following the Soweto killings. In 1979 Thobejane teamed up with Sipho Gumede, Khaya Mahlangu and Menyatso Mathole to form the innovative jazz fusion band, Sakhile, a band which was later invited to perform on anti-apartheid platforms in Switzerland, Italy and the then Soviet Union (today known as Russia).

Upon learning of his passing, Minister Nathi Mthethwa said, “Thobejane was well known as a spiritually led artist who was way ahead of his time and consistently pushed against the limits of what African drumming could do. He had often said that his drumming prowess was a pure gift, handed down mystically from his ancestral lineage. He developed a very unique style of drumming that captured the world and through his music, he liberated the hearts and minds of people everywhere during the most tragic era in South African history”.

In 1997 Thobejane went on to record his debut album Madiba.

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture mourns with the nation and the world.


Media Enquiries:

Masechaba Khumalo: Spokesperson (Minister)

Phone: 082 858 4415