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UNITED MUSICIANS BENEFIT ASSOCIATION (article first published : 2007-11-17)

What started off as benefit concerts for an ailing musician and the family of another musician who died recently has resulted in the formation of an organisation which will pay tribute to yesteryear’s musical greats and also look at their welfare. Spearheaded by Dee Sharma, founder and leader of popular dance band Dukes, the United Musicians Benefit Association will also provide study bursaries for outstanding musicians who may indigent.

When former Dukes keyboard maestro Vassie Naidoo suffered two strokes earlier this year, Dee Sharma and a group of friends of the Dukes decided to have a fund-raising ball to assist him financially. A benefit dance was held at Durban’s DLI Hall in August 8 and an amount of R20,750 was raised and deposited into Vassie’s bank account.

The Duke’s drummer Teddy Peters took ill on the night of Vassie Naidoo’s benefit dance after playing during the early part of the programme. His condition became worse within days and doctors diagnosed he was suffering from cancer. Teddy Peters passed away on September 14. A second benefit concert was held in October and a sum of R14,000 was donated to Peters’ family.

Subsequently the non-profit United Musicians Benefit Association was formed, comprising founding members Dee Sharma, Neville Naidoo, Dinesh Patel, Samuel Naidoo, Nicholas Joseph, Jerry Kunene and Klive Pillay. Dee Sharma said the association, of which he is chairman, will initially pay tribute to several senior Ballroom/Latin American calibre of musicians living in the greater Durban area. Later the association will expand its work into the rest of KwaZulu-Natal and the other provinces.

“For too long we have sat back and watched so many of our great musicians fade into obscurity without receiving any recognition for their contribution. Many of them who provided such wonderful entertainment in their prime years have died penniless and their families have been forced to struggle.

“The United Musicians Benefit Association will commence its work by first paying tribute to all those musicians who are still alive and who had contributed so immensely to this genre of music. Some of those who will be recognised are Jonnah Harris, Samuel Abraham, Edgar Royeppen and Ben Maharaj,” said Sharma, adding that a bursary fund will also be established to help disadvantaged promising musicians.

Further information from Dee Sharma on 083 983 6954 or 031 309 4280.




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