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OLD TIMERS JOL (article first published : 2008-03-31)

The collective experience of more than 200 years of playing on the saxophone will come together at Durban’s DLI Hall on April 12 at 19h30 when the United Musicians Benefit Association holds a benefit concert for four local sax legends of yesteryear.

The Old Timers Jol as it has been dubbed will give due recognition for the contribution made to the local entertainment scene by stellar saxophonists Jonnah Harris, Samuel Abraham, Edgar Royeppen and Ben Maharaj. The popular dance groups Dukes and Tropical Crescendos will perform all the favourite tunes with which the four sax maestros made their mark on the music scene.

Dee Sharma, founder and leader of Dukes and brainchild of the association which has as its mission the welfare of an older generation of musicians, said it would be a rare occasion when Jonnah, Sam, Edgar and Ben come together under one roof. “Through their musical talents, these four men have made an immeasurable contribution to bringing joy and light into the lives of people over many decades,” he says. “Rather than watching these great musicians fade into obscurity without receiving any recognition, the association decided they must be singled out and hailed for providing such wonderful entertainment in their prime years.”

He added that these music veterans suffered the injustices of apartheid when their skin colour prevented them from playing at the more popular entertainment venues in KwaZulu-Natal. “However, they did not allow their joyful spirit to be crushed by racial prejudices,” he says. “Despite being simple, working class men, each of them persevered to entertain their loyal fans.”

Sam Abraham (75) has played the sax for 55 years and has recorded five CDs. His love for music started in the church. He took lessons from the late Willy Thomas and then founded the famous group, Sam’s Latin Kings which won several music contests.

Ben Maharaj (67) who earned R4.50 per week as a shoe factory worker deprived himself of visiting the cinema for several years to save R90 to buy his first sax. He had several tutors including Sam, Edgar, Jonnah, Dee and Denny Veeran. He played with various dance bands. He recalls playing for a measly R2.50 a session at the white hotels in Durban – but only after obtaining a special “non-white” permit.

Jonnah Harris (73), who hails from a family of musicians, taught himself to play the sax at the age of 14. He has had stints with the Jazz Serenaders, Masterkeys, Rhythm Sextet, Intermezzos, Horizon, and Kreme.

Edgar Royeppen (73), the baby of the talented Royeppen musical family, was only five when he played the ukulele (a guitar-like instrument) with his siblings Ben (mandolin) and the late John (guitar) at a school concert in Clairwood. He began playing the banjo and guitar before taking up the sax and becoming a professional musician. He is best known for leading the dance band Masterkeys and popular recording group Dynachords.

For tickets for the concert - you can carry your own snacks and drinks, call Dee Sharma on 083 983 6954 or 031 309 4280.




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