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Sakhile (South Africa)  
Mabi Thobejane (front) and Sipho Gumede.1987.
© Steve Gordon.

SAKHILE made its debut in the early 1980's in the community halls and theatres of South Africa. A fountain of creativity during a time of repression and cultural stagnation, Sakhile fed ears and minds of a hungry nation.

Innovating in genre, as much as musicianship, Sakhile as a collective carried the burden of being ahead of the moment. It was passionate cultural mission, rather than commercial acclaim which propelled Sakhile through the 1980's.

Sakhile (meaning "We Have Built") laid foundations at a time when so much else needed destruction in South Africa. They textured a sound which defied the condescending categories legislated by Apartheid and its broadcasters: Proudly African, unashamedly traditional, and uncompromisingly electric.

Albums were released in 1982 and 1984, but with limited radio support, it was primarily as a live act that Sakhile blessed South Africans. The group played political rallies and schools, tasted teargas and tears.

Through their own music, and also through onstage reference to then-exiled artists such as Johnny Dyani, Hugh Masekela and Caiphus Semenya, Sakhile nudged audiences to make the links, discover and harvest a heritage that had been concealed.

Genre: African, jazz
Sakhile take a bow after their first performance together in a free South Africa. © Eugene Arries.

The group kept close contact with the exiled musicians, and by the late 1980's, collaborations with both Masekela and Semenya were routine. Sakhile also toured extensively (Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and the USSR), and recorded a third album. In 1990 they served as core musical group for South African performers at the Wembley Mandela Tribute, and in 1992, they featured at the Montreux Jazz Festival as part of a Quincy Jones showcase.

Group membership evolved through the years, making Sakhile the alma mater of many of our finest instrumentalists. Sipho Gumede, Khaya Mahlangu, Menyatso Mathole and Mabi Thobejane are individually acclaimed artists, but now stand together as original members of a defining group. Vocalist Shaluza Max Mntambo - drawn from a generation inspired by Sakhile - completes the circle, flowing back into this powerful musical lineage in 2004.

Khaya Mahlangu (sax) and Manyatso Mathole. 1987
© Steve Gordon.

The name and spirit "Sakhile" is indeed a part of the South Africa which has been built against so many odds. With "Togetherness", Sakhile offer their debut recording made in a free South Africa.

Steve Gordon, March 2004
  Recordings : Sakhile



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