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BENEFIT FOR VASIE NAIDOO (article first published : 2007-07-30)

Former band mates and peers of Dukes Combo co-founder Vasie Naidoo have lobbied together to host a forthcoming benefit concert for the local music legend. Vasie Naidoo recently suffered two strokes, leaving him in a wheelchair and unable to play any instrument.

Dee Sharma, former leader of Dukes Combo, said that the benefit concert would bring together many of the individuals who had had the honour of playing with Naidoo during his illustrious music career.

“When Vasie and I linked up,” recalls Dee Sharma, “he was already quite experienced, while I was still a novice. Vasie became my mentor and teacher, and was definitely one of the best musicians I had ever come across. It is so sad to see his condition now, with him being unable to exercise his love of music.”

Vasie Naidoo dreamed of playing music from his early childhood. Ever since the age of nine, when he met lifelong friend Pete Msomi, he has been honing his skills especially on the piano, keyboard and piano-accordion. After years of practising together, they finally formed their own band, The San Remos, in 1958, performing in dance clubs all over Durban. Their lucky break came when they were contracted to perform in East London at the Sam China Cup Tournament. It was here that he met Pauline Moonieyan, who is his wife today.

Vasie Naidoo also performed as a soloist on the piano-accordion at many concerts and talent shows. It was at one of these performances that he first heard Dee Sharma’s three-piece group backing rock-n-roll singer Midget Vahed. He was instantly drawn to them and this new partnership led to the formation of the now-professional Dukes Combo dance band in September 1962.

In 1977 when the group first decided to turn professional and embrace music as a fulltime career, Vasie Naidoo opted out. With family commitments and having established himself as an ace salesman in the retail industry, he left the Dukes.

Still with a zest for performing, Naidoo soon formed his own group, The Kreme, which was originally created as a make-shift group to perform at the Why Not nightclub in Swaziland in 1977. Their unique sound of dance and pop soon meant that The Kreme were popular in Durban again. In 1982, The Kreme recorded their debut album, Hooked on Dancing. The success of this album led to the recording of their second album in 1987 called At the Waterfront and a third album in 1991 called Samba for Africa.

In a musical career that spanned over 20 years, Naidoo performed with a number of the country’s top musicians, all of whom had nothing but praise in working with this great master.

“Vasie was always an outstanding, intelligent, versatile and humble man who always gave his all to music,” recalls San Remos band mate, Norman Francis:

Former Kreme member Teddy Peters adds: “Giving his all also meant sharing his knowledge and skill with up-and-coming or struggling musicians. He was one of the finest Latin American dance pianists of his day and never kept his knowledge or talent to himself, even going so far as to open his home to musicians to mentor and coach them.”

The Vasie Naidoo Benefit Concert will be held on August 8 at the DLI Hall in Marriott Road, Greyville, from 19h30. Entrance R30 and patrons may bring their own snacks and drinks. All proceeds will assist Vasie and his family in getting through this difficult time.




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