Tears Again as Another Jazz Legend Passes Away…

Dr Phillip Nchipi Tabane (Mail&Guardian Photo)

By Jaston Binala.


Tears are pouring down once again among African jazz lovers!  We have lost one more star; Phillip Nchipi Tabane of Pretoria, South Africa, whose fame earned him a nickname in his musical form.

Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, has expressed deep sadness at the passing away on Friday, 18 May, 2018 of  the genius of ‘Malombo’ jazz music, even though we know tears and sadness do not resurrect a loved one.

I came across Phillip ‘Malombo’ Tabane through a VHS tape in which one of the numbers represented African love at its best. The song was composed in remembrance of loved ones long gone. From a Kiswahili speaking nation the name of the song sounded like ‘ba subeleesi’. I lost the tape and cried.  And now there is this painful report–as if the passing away of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and David Masondo was not enough!

It was crying time again in both South Africa, Tanzania and elsewhere in the SADC region when media reports announced the death of  Phillip ‘Malombo’.  An online report on South Africa’s Sunday Times announced that Friday afternoon, that  veteran jazz musician Philip Tabane had died aged 84, quoting a close friend and family spokesperson.

The musician, who was best known for his hits Nkupi and Muvhango, died at the Mamelodi hospital in Pretoria on Friday morning. He was admitted to the hospital two days [earlier] for an age-related illness.

“We were with him just yesterday evening. Doctors called this morning to ask the family to come and see him. It was a massive shock to all of us and the news is still quite fresh. We console ourselves with the knowledge that he was surrounded by family when he passed,” Dr Sello Galane, the close friend, told TshisaLIVE.

He was born in Pretoria and at a young age formed the music trio The Malombo Jazz Men. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the South African Music Awards in 1998. Tabane was hailed as one of the best musicians in South Africa and still continued to perform, despite his age.

The President of South Africa, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa, is among those of us grieving this departure from  life.  Ramaphosa conferred an honorary PhD in Music and Cultural Anthropology on Phillip ‘Malombo’ Tabane in 1998 as the then chancellor of the University of Venda.

A statement released  by the President’s office on Tuesday, 22 May 2018, says  President Cyril Ramaphosa has conveyed his deep sadness and condolences on behalf of the Republic of South Africa to the family of Dr Phillip Nchipi Tabane, who passed away after a long illness on 18 May 2018.

Dr Phillip Nchipi Tabane is celebrated worldwide by jazz enthusiasts as the founding member of the Malombo Jazzmen, a trio whose music has been described as spiritual, mesmerising, unique and spell-binding.

Dr Tabane, called “Malombo” by his legion of fans, has been a source of influence to many jazz artists and collaborated with  the likes of the late Ms Busi Mhlongo, Ms  Abigail Khubheka and Mr Vusi Mahlasela to name a few. He has won many accolades , including the 1998 South African Music Award best single for his hit  “Kea Bereka”.

“Dr Phillip ‘Malombo’ Tabane was rightly considered a luminary by his peers and those he mentored, as his unique sound spoke to spirits both living and those departed.

It was truly healing and uplifting listening to his music and watching him perform, the statement reads in part.  His physical silence leaves a great void but his sound lives on in our nation’s heart and memory, and our cultural heritage,” President Ramaphosa said.

One media report links ‘Malombo’ music  to African spiritual experience, and the promoter of this music genre  a philosopher and conduit of ‘malombo’ spirits.

Read related story here: Dr Philip Tabane passes on, leaving malombo to the next generation