A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

music
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

DEATH OF SIPHO GUMEDE (article first published : 2004-07-27)

Yesterday (July 26), Neil Comfort of the Rainbow Restaurant & Jazz Club in Pinetown sent out a cancellation notice for the concert hosting guitar legend Sipho Gumede scheduled for this Sunday as Sipho had been taken seriously ill.

Later last night, Neil sent out the sad news that Sipho had passed away that evening at Parklands hospital at approximately 18h30. Here is his message:

“At that time (the moment when Sipho had passed away), I was standing on the stage at the Rainbow telling his friends that he was very ill and that we were going to have to cancel this Sunday's show. I was urging everyone to pray for him. The latest news that I had at that point was that his condition was improving.

My phone keeps ringing and my thoughts are bouncing all over the place. I cannot do this anymore. Musicians and friends are hearing the news on the radio right now and none of us can believe it. Lovers of South African music, of Sipho's music, just cannot believe it. We have lost a great musician and a wonderful person.

What kind of empty tribute is this City of ours going to come up with for Mr G? Are they going to claim him for their own now that he is gone? One of the last conversations we had, as we were planning this show at the Rainbow, was how poorly the City treated its musicians. You see we couldn't find any sponsors for the show. These days all the corporates are interested in are youth orientated events - and let's forget the fact that musicians like Sipho stayed in South Africa and fought apartheid through the music that they played.

I cannot claim to know this first hand but as a custodian of the Rainbow's history now, I know just how much a history of Sipho Gumede is a history of music at the Rainbow. Some people have criticised me for having done seven concerts with Sipho at the Rainbow in the less than three years that Nicola and I have been there. Now they will understand, now that he has gone. I do not regret having tried to do this week’s show either, and sorry to those that would say that I should bring other bands.

I had told him about the Rainbow having been fined R600 for three "illegal" posters that we had been nabbed for having put out for the last show that he did at the Rainbow in December 2003. Every single gig that we did at the Rainbow with Sipho was advertised with posters that were "illegally" placed around Pinetown in areas where our and Sipho's supporters live and have lived for as long as he has been playing at the Rainbow.

A newspaper has just phoned to ask how old Sipho was. I don't know? Maybe 45, maybe 47 - just too damn young to be leaving us!

I spend an hour on the phone trying to track down someone who has a definitive answer on Sipho's age. I try Damon Forbes from Sheer Sound, Sipho's label, with whom I have spoken to a couple of times already today. Engaged and then eventually off (or battery flat). I try Ben Pretorius again but he and Pam are not sure on the age question. Maybe Busi Mhlongo, engaged (already spoken to thrice tonight). Brian Thusi - "maybe around 56" but not really sure. Khaya Mahlangu - voicemail. Bernard Mndaweni - not sure and doesn't have Bongani Nkwanyana's number. Fana Zulu - not sure and will try and track down Pops Mohammed's number. Fana phones back about twenty minutes later - another cellphone in the background is ringing almost immediately. And my twisted mind wonders how much money the cellphone companies are making out of Sipho's tragic death and how much they have put into his career? Fana says he has been getting a lot of calls.

I get through to Pops and I hear a story that just deepens the sadness. After playing in Swaziland two weekends back, Sipho headed back to Durban doubled up in pain from his stomach. A visit to the clinic last Monday resulted in the dispensing of tablets that made him feel worse. He headed back to hospital last Tuesday and essentially booked himself in. By Thursday or Friday the bleeding had stopped. Yesterday Damon and Pops saw him and he said he was feeling better now that the bleeding had stopped. They had done tests like a CAT scan and that he was going to be hearing from the specialist today. He was feeling very optimistic for the future and had spoken to them about the Rainbow gig and to please contact us as he had seen a lot of publicity. Nothing less for you Mr Gumede as you always brought the 300 people that fill the Rainbow. The next Pops heard was that Sipho had passed away.

Faces and Places, When Days Are Dark (friends are few), Stokvel Gumba, Mantombi, Down Freedom Avenue, Down South and so many more will forever reverberate through the walls of the Rainbow. I am shocked. We are all shocked. Wake up South Africa - your musical soul is slipping through your fingers..... Sipho Gumede, Mandla Masuku, Teaspoon Ndlela, GTX Xaba, Fortune Xaba, Sandile Shange, Baba Mokoena, Gito Baloi - and these are just some of the musicians that I have worked with on shows in Durban who have passed away in the last two years or so. So many more, and for so many its because of one or other "reason" for the declining life expectancy in South Africa.

Neil Comfort - For the Rainbow, for the music




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart