We Celebrate Legendary Guitarist Phillip Tabane

South Africa is in mourning for one of its musical heavyweights as popular jazz artist Philip Tabane passed away aged 84.

Tabane’s career was full of colourful performances, incredible worldwide tours and a host of accolades. His stage presence was enormous, and his death has even touched the very top of the political pyramid.

President Ramaphosa paid tribute to the musician via a statement on Friday afternoon:

“Dr Phillip ‘Malombo’ Tabane was rightly considered a luminary by his peers and those he mentored, as his unique sound spoke to spirits both living and those departed.”

“It was truly healing and uplifting listening to his music and watching him perform. His physical silence leaves a great void but his sound lives on in our nation’s heart and memory, and our cultural heritage.”

Philip Tabane was adored for his vision and creativity. But what did the Mamelodi-born musician achieve in his career?

Who is Philip Tabane, and what did he accomplish?

Early success

He founded the Malombo Jazzmen. They were wildly successful during the 1960s and 70s, culminating in the album Malombo in 1976.

It was a critical and commercial success, which featured heavyweights of South African music including Busi Mhlongo, Abigail Khubheka and Vusi Mahlasela.

Sharing stages with the biggest names in the business

When you are as talented as Tabane was, that takes you places. He performed all over the world but enjoyed major success in America. He performed with Herbie Hancock, Miles Davies and even the Pointer Sisters during his time in New York City.

An honorary degree from the man who would be President

Ramaphosa’s tribute to Tabane was made all the more poignant when you realise that the pair crossed paths 20 years ago.

Whilst chancellor of the University of Venda, the President conferred an honorary PhD in Music and Cultural Anthropology on Dr Phillip Tabane in 1998.

His greatness hasn’t gone unrecognised

You know, 1998 was a grand old your for Philip. Fresh from becoming an honorary doctorate, the South African Music Awards (SAMA) conveyed their biggest honour onto him.

They gifted him the Lifetime Achievement Prize for his outstanding contribution to music. Blessed with the ability to play the guitar, bass and even the pennywhistle, it’s only fitting that he was acknowledged by his industry.

Tabane made his mark against apartheid

The veteran musician was asked to produce the score to Last Grave at Dimbaza – a film which documented the cruel reign of apartheid. It gained an international audience and opened eyes to the horrors black South Africans faced.

His haunting, perfectly crafted soundtrack really drove home the desperation the people of Mzansi were facing. He was influential across many mediums, and make no mistake: Philip Tabane will be sorely missed.

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