Guitarists, Billy Monama and Themba Mokoena, to perform in KZN

Billy_Monama_-_Pic_2_by_Thami_Ntuli

Billy Monama. Photo: Thami Ntuli

In association with Concerts SA, guitar maestro, Billy Monama, and the legendary Themba Mokoena are touring the country as part of the GrazRoots “Geleza Tour” Project.

Fans can catch them at The Chairman, 146 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Point, Durban at 10 pm on Saturday, May 20 – tickets R150 at 079 753 6313 or info@thechairmanlive.com – and at Mamas Jazz Restaurant, 210 Northway Drive, Umhlanga Rocks, Durban North  at 8.30pm on Sunday, May 21. To book phone 076 195 4630 or email info@mamasjusjazzin.co.za 

This live music educational project aims to conduct workshops and master classes at music schools followed by collaborative performances with musicians

Project founder and leader Billy Monama says: “I am teaming up with the legendary guitarist Themba Mokoena to introduce South African guitar styles in music schools.

“The GrazRoots “Geleza Tour” Project brings an educational programme in a format of master classes and workshops in music schools across the country, this will give ammunition to our music students (composers and arrangers) to develop a writing ‘voice’ that speaks to our history and our heritage as we map out our identity as a nation.”

Revisiting old South African classics and celebrating past South African composers and musicians, the GrazRoots Project sets out to revive the history and re-connect us with our South African musical heritage in order to give birth to a new soundtrack that will carry us into the Future, as a Nation.

Research conducted by Billy showed how the legacy of our uniquely South African guitar styles is fast disappearing. Not only is the voice of the guitar dying away, but a whole generation of music culture and lifestyle could be completely wiped out, including mbaqanga, mgqashiyo, maskandi, African jazz and more.

Billy began his journey with the guitar in his hometown of Mokopane, Mahwelereng in the Northern Province of South Africa.

A childhood soundtrack that combined traditional ethnic sounds, African gospel and jazz is what inspired him to become a force to be reckoned with in the professional music scene.

Billy spent time at the Central Johannesburg College studying music theory, harmony and ensemble work. He also researched and transcribed guitar masters like Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Marks Mankwane, Jimmy Dludlu and others.

He now leads his own band and works with artists like Themba Mkhize, Abdullah Ibrahim, Andile Yenana, Sibongile Khumalo, Thandiswa Mazwai, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, Mbongeni Ngema, and Dorothy Masuku.

His music arranging skills have also spilled into the dance and movement industry, where he has worked with the internationally acclaimed Vuyani Dance Company.

Hailing from Pietermaritzburg, Themba Mokoena, is an ‘institution’ of South African guitar styles. He initially learned his skills from older brother, Jotang “Joko Tea” Mokoena.

Inspired by jazz giant, Wes Montgomery, in the 1960s he was part of the generation of musicians that developed the sound of marabi and African jazz.

After moving to Johannesburg in 1972 with the band Durban Expressions, he worked with successful bands of the time such as Gibson Kente, Jacob “Mpharanyana” Radebe, The Peddlers and performed a lot at the then famous Soweto club, The Pelican.

He also played guitar on many top recordings under Mavuthela Records, a black subsidiary of Gallo Records that recorded great and influential artists like West Nkosi, Makgona Tsohle Band, Mahlathini & Mahotella Queens and many more.

Still active today, he performs and records locally and internationally with different projects, and with songstress Sibongile Khumalo.

The gigs are being supported by Concerts SA through the Music Mobility Fund, a funding mechanism which offers opportunities for South African musicians to undertake live music tours.

Concerts SA is a joint South African/Norwegian live music development project housed within the SAMRO Foundation.

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