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TRIBUTE TO JABU KHANYILE (article first published : 2006-11-19)

Legendary South African artist, Jabu Khanyile passed away in Johannesburg last week after a long battle with diabetes and cancer. Well-known for his jazz-flavoured work, he was the lead vocalist for his band, Bayete, and his last performance was in July in Germany during the World Cup handover.

Neil Comfort, co-owner of the Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown, paid this tribute (courtesy of The Mercury).

I was first educated in the music of Jabu Khanyile and Bayete by Busi Mhlongo back in 1993. The first time I worked with Jabu Khanyile and Bayete was in 1996 as part of the team producing the now defunct Rainbat events.

Over the next nine years, I was privileged to be part of the production of around a dozen performances by him in Durban at venues as diverse as the BAT Hall, Upstage and the Rainbow Restaurant. The last time was in March 2005 when, in partnership with Chris Ntuli of Durban Black Drifters Productions, we presented him at the Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown. Sadly, Khanyile lost his battle against prostate cancer on Saturday.

Through all of those performances the things that will stick with me for the rest of my life: his soaring voice; his nurturing of new talent; his pride in being an African; his ready smile; his friendship and openness to those he worked with and to his fans.

If I look back on the last 14 years that I have worked in the local live music scene, from those early days of sitting on Busi Mhlongo's floor being introduced to the sounds of South Africa and Africa, the sounds that, for a "whitey" like me, had been on "other" airwaves before; I would have to say that four names stick out.

Four names that defined the road that ultimately led me to taking up the challenge of owning and running the Rainbow Restaurant with my wife Nicola in 2001 with such pride and respect for all that I had previously witnessed there from those four names: Busi Mhlongo, Sipho Gumede, Jabu Khanyile and Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi.

Gumede succumbed to cancer in 2004. We have just lost Khanyile. Last Wednesday, Mhlongo had a mastectomy. Forgive me if I am a little blue this week for I am mourning. Forgive me if I am a bit withdrawn this week for I am praying. Excuse me from attending any shows, as I need a time out.

Next week I will try and come back strong as I still have the Rainbow's 25th birthday concert in December to produce. Barring the signing of contracts, it looks like "Mankunku" will be there with an all-star line-up. I hope and pray that Mhlongo will be in the audience. That would be the ultimate present for me!




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