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YOUNG ARTIST AWARD MUSIC (article first published : 2004-06-23)

Sponsored by Standard Bank and posthumously presented by the National Arts Festival this special award has been given to Moses Taiwa Molelekwa (1973 - 2002), in recognition of his invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in the South African music industry.

In announcing the award, Sibongile Khumalo, Vice Chair of the National Arts Festival Committee, had this to say, "Moses was indeed a young man before his time. His outstanding talent and ability challenged cultural divisions and allowed music to be freed onto the global stage."

Moses Taiwa Molelekwa was a virtuoso keyboardist and innovative composer. He has been described as one of the most exciting and creative artists who came to represent the new vibrant spirit of South Africa. He was born on April 17, 1973, and raised in Tembisa, where from an early age he was exposed to jazz. His grandfather was a pianist and his father, Jerry, was nicknamed 'Monk', as he was the first guy in the local jazz society to understand what Thelonius was doing.

Moses' father was determined that his son would become a musician. From the age of 11 Moses started attending FUBA (Federated Union of Black Artists) in Newtown, where he initially learnt the recorder and then went on to the piano. In 1987 he won the prestigious Best Student Award and made his professional debut at Johannesburg's premier jazz club, Kippie's. After matric he was offered a bursary to study in America, which he turned down in favour of releasing his first album Finding Oneself, and then a second album Genes and Spirit.

Described as “jazz pianist extraordinaire”, Moses gave piano playing a whole new meaning. Blessed with a natural talent, he developed a unique style that displays South Africa's musical heritage. He played with his country's greats such as Miriam Makeba and Jonas Gwangwa, and at the young age of 18, was approached by Hugh Masekela, with whom he later toured.

Moses laid the foundations for the reinterpretation of the South African jazz tradition of Abdullah Ibrahim, with whom he was often compared, and was hailed as one of the most exciting players to have emerged from the Republic in recent years. With three SA Music Awards under his belt, he featured amongst the leaders of a new generation of musicians emerging to reveal the vibrant spirit of South Africa.

Two further albums were released by Melt 2000, Fin de Siecle Festival Nantes 1997 and Wa Mpona. Moses also acted as musical director of several theatre productions, directing musicians including Barney Rachabane, Sophie Mgcina and Jennifer Ferguson to great acclaim.

Moses Molelekwa undoubtedly led the new talent that was emerging at the post-apartheid time. Freed at last, his music embraced the sounds of the rest of Africa and built bridges through to Asia, the Americas and the clubs of Europe.

Jerry, Moses' father has founded the Moses Taiwa Molelekwa Arts Foundation (MTMAF) in memory of his son and it is hoped that this will benefit many aspirant musicians in the future.




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