FOR MOSES (17 April 1973 – 13 February 2001)
From the Robert Trunz interview : There was a nice story behind the whole Moses thing which will take us back to a few days after the 4th world concert in Durban. After Durban we went with Airto and Flora to the Arts Alive festival in Joburg in 1993. It was quite funny because Airto was playing two consequent nights and one night was inside the market theatre and that was quite a story because it was announced by a guy from Chicago who was in Johannesburg, I don’t know if he is still there. SABC filmed this whole thing and there were interviews with, what’s this nice guy called, he did the jazz broadcast in those days, elderly guy with beard and glasses. He has been doing the show for many years very knowledgeable. So, somehow that first evening at the market theatre the festival must have overbooked they were probably twice as many tickets as they should because they obviously some restrictions in terms of safety. The security guys outside the door were holding people back because there were so many. But literally people forced their way in and at some stage they just let them go. We were back stage and I was looking out from backstage into the audience and there were literally everywhere were people even up on the struts people were hanging up there looking down. And it was a great show. Airto did one of the best solos I ever heard. I was in there. But that afternoon I went across to market theatre and in the outdoors they had some stages. There was a stage ad there was a big band playing lots of people I never heard or seen before. There was a big big band that filled up the whole stage and on the side, on the left there was a baby grand. And there was somebody playing the piano. Now, for me the piano is not my most favourite instrument and there are a few people I really love on the piano. Some of the works of Keith Jarrett for example, some f the live stuff I love and then there is obviously Herbie Hancock whom I got to know quite well, there is Abdullah Ibrahim, McCoy Tyner and some classical piano as well. But then you have one pf my real favourites was Gil Evans. When he plays Fender Rhodes. That is an instrument I like a lot. There are a lot of keyboards that are for me too cheesy. There was a time after Miles Davis where they all played fusion. They all started trying out those real naff keyboards that made funny squeaky noises and people playing endless solos. Chick Corea is also somebody I like, but not all. The electric Chick Corea sounded eeeaewawaw. SO, funnily enough there was some half solos wit this piano and I couldn’t see anything because there was a lot of people there. I made my way up to the front and I saw this big band with lots of people and I saw the piano. I couldn’t see the person behind he piano, it was just a little Muslim hat or whatever he used to wear in those days and yeah it was great. Nice piano playing. So I stayed and then in the next track he played a solo. He started it off and wow wow wow. I asked the guy next to me, ‘whose this?’ He said ‘Moses.’ So I had to go. The next day they were playing fourth world out on the main stage but sometime before they went on stage I was walking through the side stage area and there was the same stage again but this time there were an electric wind instrument. There is a guy called Rashid Lanie. I think he left and went to the States and he might be back. It was Rashid Lanie and someone else and Moses on the piano. That was completely different music. This big band thing you hear the standards. There was some great South African songs in there. They even did Mannenberg. I thought I want to get to know this guy so I waited. Evening had just settled in. It had got dark. After the concert everyone came off the stage. Backstage there is steps going down. It is dark you can’t see much. Up on the stage there is an opening with the light coming through. I was waiting because I hadn’t seen this guy coming down. After a while he appeared in this opening. He was very tall and he had some notes and sheets in his hand left and right both arms. He comes out and starts walking down and I thought Moses coming down with the tablets. Funny kind of thing comes to your head. “Hey there is Moses coming down with his tablets to tell us about the music.” So I met him at the bottom of the stairs and talked to him. That was 193 and the changeover had started to happen. I was like an umlungu and now I go and see this young black kid. To me he was very promising. He had already been touring the United States with Hugh Masekela by that time. Shortly before he came back at the age of 17. Yes I talked to him and left my name and address and said if he felt it appropriate I would like to record his music. And I could see in his face that he wasn’t really interested but then a few weeks later I got a phone call from Pops, because I said to Moses that if he wanted to contact me he could do so via Pops. At that time, I had met Pops and he has been around all the time. Pops became the Gauteng contact and Sipho was the KZN contact. Sipho was also the one who later invited Amampoindo to the Outernational Meltdown recordings. There was a recording that was done in Joburg for Moses’s first album and I the recording engineer was Peter Thwaites. And there were some interesting people on there like Max, whom I only met the year after. And Fana Zulu was on there. I can’t remember who was on drums, Vusi Khumalo? The album was doing well. People liked it, it got two or three sama awards. And he started touring and play a lot of concerts here in South Africa. When we came back in ’94 with Andrew and Byron, they started hanging out with Moses, Max, Andrew and Byron. They formed a kind of junior section of the whole thing. Fana was in there as well. These people after this whole Outernational Meltdown got together and they formed Barungwa. On Outernational Meltdown in 1994, Moses couldn’t join us in Johannesburg on the recording. He did one track in Joburg. It is on youtube. Because he was busy touring the country, lots of gigs. He made it to come down to Cape Town where we recorded at Milestones. Great recording sessions because that finally got Airto in high spirits because he was working with Amampondo and now it was his element working with these guys. And then Moses joined them and they recorded one of the songs that is on Genes and Spirits. In Cape Town whilst recording the phone rang and then I got somebody talking to me from Johannesburg saying I must get Moses on the phone because his wife had just given him a son. I went to call him and gave him the phone and sat in the control room. There was a DAT going on all the time to record the back things. He walked into the studio and sat down. I saw him sitting down and thought OK let me hit the recording button because I knew he would be playing. Immediately after he knew about his son he was there and was playing the song Bo Molelekwa which was the name of his grandfather and the inspiration for his work. I think his direct hero. Which is nice.
Was that Zoe?
Yes. He is twenty studying piano at university. I haven’t seen him since Moses’s funeral. I knew Zoe quite well. He used to hang out with my son. He used to come and visit. I had a lot of these musicians whose family also became part of this whole thing. It is for me involving people on such alevel that they become part of your everyday life is nice but some people misuse it aswell. They get into you and not do nice things, steal from you, all that. But, at the end of all this time I think today there are afew people I can say are true friends. And certainly for me the closest friend out of all of them is Madala and his family. Madala is part of my family. And I saw it now with Nico coming down, Nico and S’bu, Madala’s son are the same age now. It makes me happy that there is another generation interfacing communicating acknowledging that they have grown up together on different continents mostly but that they are one. S’bu for example has just got a drum set so he is drumming there at home at Madala’s place. And he has started to DJ as well. And he has to finish his school. He is busy.
It is funny coming back to Durban and suddenly Zoe is also here. I think it has been very very good that he made that decision to get away from that whole family thing up there. He is twenty, he must be living his own life. It is important for young people to live their own life in my opinion. I get shot down by a lot of people like Madala. His son and daughter have to be at home until they are 21. Then my son being aware at 18 already for a year is quite shocking to some people. But I think that is Ok they must grow up. I also left home at 16. My son said, ‘dad you want to get rid of me.’ I said, ‘why?’ You want to do the same thing you left home at 16, you want to chase me out.’ I said, ‘well if I have to chase you out I will.’ I did actually once. I chased him out and sent him down here to South Africa to his mum and then he started to realise that puberty and growing up is not easy and then he changed quite rapidly because down here he didn’t like it with his stepfather. He hasn’t been very nice to him at all. So, our new generation is those kids that are growing up and like Matthias and these guys. They are like children for me. Not to say a child but a child that grows close to you. It is like your own child. And so because of growing up the way Nico has grown up with all these musicians and all these friends that are around. The first people who were coming to him like Pops with the mbira and Mabi playing percussion on his cheeks. Mabi carried Nico more than his mum in the first two years because his mum was studying as well and Mabi was there half the time. Because of the fact that we have been able to spend a lot of time together with musicians in England because I had a farm there as well. I had a house and I bought a farm and we converted some of the stables into studios. Because of that being together sparked off a number of quite interesting collaborations.
I don’t know what sparked off so many recordings. In hindsight I don’t know what the hell I have been doing. Everybody wanted to record. Everybody came with other people. You must listen to this and you must listen to that. And down here we had Sipho Gumede was recording some gospel choir people called New Generation which by the way was never released. Coming back to what you were saying, what happens to all this unreleased stuff? I don’t know it is just there. Maybe someday somebody will find that and release that. There is stuff amongst that in my opinion yes it is a part of the history of the time. I feel that when you record something it should also sound appropriately good or have some value in terms of when you reproduce it. That is the thing that always bothered me in South Africa, these fast and furious productions that people did. Getting them in the morning to the studio, record ten tracks, then send the people off and then quickly mix it and master it and then a week later it is out. It is kind of an industry that does the same thing because to me a lot of those recording still, all sound the same. They all like a bit more of this and a bit more of that… And then when you have somebody come along that is really good it often goes under in this fast produced worlds and the record companies didn’t in those days because nobody wanted to spend any money. But because of my background in Hi Fi and then in B&W, I wanted to know about the quality and how to achieve quality as well. So a lot of the people from here hadn’t worked with good recording engineers so there was Chris Lewis, Richard Edwards who had been doing most of my stuff and other engineers often working with the local engineers here. So, for me, I took the stuff back to England and then we were mixing and mastering there. An expensive thing in those days, very expensive because you had these 24 track tapes 2 inch, and a reel like that is immensely heavy to transport. Today you have got that thing in your pocket on a USB stick, but in those days you carried it. When you finished a session, one session when we finished it we had to get it to Santa Barbara to be mixed. That was the Flora Purim one. It was 500kg’s of tapes that you had to freight over to Los Angeles. Imagine! In today’s terms it is you have only a few gigabytes. What is that? It was extremely expensive to buy those tapes, 24 track high precision reels. Plus you had a lot of analogue material in the studios. Everything that is done today you plug in. An engineer can work fast. Now you can send the track here and there over the internet. Those things were not possible in those days so it was very expensive.
Pops was doing the Outernational part. If you look at the Outernational CD’s, part of that was arranged by Pops and part of that was arranged by Sipho. Sipho brought some choir up from Durban. It was planned that we did Joburg, Durban, Cape Town, but somehow it turned out that we didn’t have the kind of facility we needed to do that in Durban so because of the relatively short distance compared to the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town, than Johannesburg and Durban we brought the people up there and put them in hotels and they came to the studio. Downtown studio, full, all the different studios and rooms were occupied by musicians because as I said Pops and Sipho just brought these people in. Pops brought the sangomas in, Susan Hendrix, there was McCoy. McCoy we recorded right at the end that has never been released. There was some stuff with Sipho and people from here, Lindiwe, she died later. There was a beautiful song you should look up. There is a video of it on youtube called Mama Yeah Mama Yeah. Really beautiful song. Like an acapella thing. And Mabi and Airto that is it. Very nice track. There is a lot of footage of Outernational Meltdown on video that has never been released. Because there wasn’t much professional video material available. And the guys who were filming were friends of Shaluza Max and they did quite a bit of filming but unfortunately the camera had a fault so all the audio recordings are distorting which is a real bummer. They captured a lot of the stuff on the side which I personally like about any of the recording sessions or these gatherings are the little things happening on the side like when people sit together and rehearse and do things. There is magic stuff that happens there. But a lot of the material is still around. Just like nobody has been interested enough to look at it all because it is massive. There are hundreds of hours on video still in London but if perhaps someone in this country would consider it worthwhile looking at that material and make it available then it would be nice. Somebody would just put the money on the table. There is a lot of money hanging around here. Bu the money doesn’t seem to be spent on some of those things.
I was not aware that what I was doing in the 90’s would become part of the heritage of the post apartheid. A documentation of post apartheid music. Because there is a lot. They told me afterwards because I wasn’t really living here, I was coming in and going back. Some of these guys were recording in Paris, some of these guys were recording in Europe. Suddenly South Africa became an interesting country for music in London especially. This guy Paul Bradshaw did a lot of work to make that happen that these things became more obvious to the listeners and the younger listeners especially because of those collaborations that happened with Byron Wallen and Andrew Missingham and all those people. They were part of the London scene for the young people, the acid jazz kind of thing. South Africa became more and more popular over there. At the same time whilst things became more popular outside the country within the country things started to change so rapidly that people forgot about their heritage very quickly. But they were the exception like Moses was somebody who hit with his second album Genes and Spirits really hit the nail and brought the young generation and the old generation together and filled all these concert halls that he was playing because of his unique sound and this unique sound came out of his experiences in London. That interview which is on the internet, on youtube with Moses; that is an interesting part of what Moses is all about and whatever the significance this album had in this country afterwards. Had he not died the way he did then there would be most likely even more people who would have pushed the boundaries of jazz and electronic. He had a beautiful mixture of beats and stuff. You know traditional beats and rhythms in this country which he integrated with garage rhythms and stuff like that. Genes and Spirits I love that album. Listen to the interview because in those interviews he also talks about his influences and the people that have passed his way to what he was doing.
Is his music, music with no name?
It was really the influence of him coming to London with Barungwa. Andrew and all these people introduced him. The London jazz boys, they didn’t just do jazz. They were all the time playing with the most diverse kinds of groups and interface started already in those days, interfacing with electronic and working electronica live at the same time. It was great. Obviously the keyboard and the computers, the beats were created on the computer, no longer did you do it on the recording. You started programing differently. That person who can create the beats on the computer often decides on the success or failure of the album. Because of his whole beat structure is no good it sounds shit. What you see later 15 years later, you started to see in America with all the hip hop and all tis different electronic influences that came about, a lot of the DJ’s started working with the musicians as well creating beats, creating things. It was nice to see later in South Africa that this Moses Moelekwa, this boy Taiwa introduced so much of that electronica in a really beautiful way becuase he was playing it on his keyboards. It wasn’t just a programed thing. He actually made it up. He would actually be able to play his whole thing during the concert. That was quite unique at that point. He had it all there. He came to me one day and said he wanted to do a new album and wanted to work with Andrew Missingham on it and he wanted Andrew to program the beats. Andrew is a drummer but he was one of those new generation guys who could also program the whole thing so it would sound the way. You know they program the sounds and then they play on top of them as well so it becomes something quite different. But there was a time during the recordings of Genes and Spirits where Moses and Andrew’s way of thinking must have come to a dead end. So then one day whilst Moses was recording in England he came down to my house and came and sat down. We had already vastly overspent on the recording budget because he had all kinds of people there. Flora, Airto, Chucho Valdez, recording here and there in London in the Milo studios and then go out to Peter Gabriel’s studio. It cost a lot of money. I thought it is ok because we will have an album and put it out. And then he sits down and says ‘I am sorry but I like to redo some of the stuff.’ And I like to use a track from the album Outernational Meltdown which we recorded in 994. I would like the tapes but on the tapes I would like to replace the drummer who in 94 was Andrew Missingham and I would like to replace him with Bruce Wassy. So we had to get Bruce Wassy from Paris and we had to re-record a lot of the stuff. It became twice as expensive which was very expensive indeed I can assure you. But who am I, silly little me who loves music but can’t even make music because I don’t have any talent to compose a track or play an instrument, so how can I tell this boy, Moses was like one of my sons. I can’t tell this guy he is totally over the budget without making him feel bad. That is the worst thing to get somebody to feel bad. So I shut up, I bit my lips and that was it. I liked him too much. To have such beautiful characters around, so much inspiration and beauty in the music, hey come on, what is money in the end? Because that album that came out Genes and Spirits you can always listen to that there are always one or two tracks that will trigger some memories, some happiness. You can play it today, you can play it tomorrow and you can play it he day before yesterday. Almost 20 years ago now and it is still around and I am sure you are going to find people who are going to play his songs a long time from now which is good because every time somebody pays his songs sand remembers him I am sure there is going to be a little nice drawing on the big canvass of his life that remains a mystery or the death of his.
And I hope that his son studies piano. I tried to get hold of Zoe for a long time. It was in the end by a guy who has been looking up a lot of the stuff on the internet about Moses that I got in touch with Zoe again because he is like one of his sisters was Moses was his girlfriend so he is part of the family. This made me feel very happy when I was able to get hold of Zoe for the first time again after all this time and Zoe is a two meter tall guy now and he plays basketball and he is really really good. I haven’t seen him for many years. He got a parallel thing that happened. At some stage between the first and the second album Moses got invited to Berkeley University in United States/. Moses comes to me and says Hey Robert I don’t know what to do? I say that that doesn’t sound like you. What must I do I get an invitation from Berkeley University for me to go and study there and all my big heroes like Herbie is lecturing there as well. A lot of my heroes are teaching there and I don’t know and then at the same time I really want to do my second album which became Genes and Spirits. I looked at him and said Moses you know what? Oh you got such a unique style you got so much talent why you want to go to Berkeley they teach you something else and you come back playing the sae shit as they all do. And he said you are right plus I really want to do this album because my head is so full. They were traveling with Barungwa, they were recording, performing, hearing other things. He was in London starting to get into all the scenes. So he said no and he stayed.
Whilst we recorded in 94 for the Outernational Meltdown there was Moses there one day. It was all he could afford as the next day he had to be somewhere else. We were like in the studios which had a baby grand and it was after midnight everybody had gone. I was just hanging there with Moses because Moses was not wanting to go to sleep or whatever. So we smoked a spliff and Moses sat on the piano. I was really tired so I lay on the floor under the piano and I was in a state of half asleep, but awake enough to get this amazing shower, a waterfall of sound coming down from this piano onto me, penetrating my body, going into me. He was playing. I was just there underneath the piano. I don’t know how long for, I have no idea, I just know that somehow I came out of this ream and it was bright daylight out there. It must have been six o clock in the morning. He was just playing nonstop on the piano. What an amazing experience to be there. Which prompted me at some stage later to say Moses do me a favour let’s do a solo album. When you see this Keith Jarret thing, live in Cologne and stuff like that. That night there was amazing. That was a live concert for one person. Lovely. But Moses said no I want to concentrate on this on my group because at that time he got in with Moses Khumalo and the other young Jaws and Selo and all the kids, which was great. And then I ask him again and I ask him again. Every time I saw him I say hey Baba Moses come. By that time his wife became the manager and she was nanana because now she was very busy. Moses you have to do this, Moses you have to do that, Moses you have to play this and that and boom boom boom. I say Moses before you burn out can we please do this. One day he calls me and says I am going to but I just want to go into the studio like SABC and I want to look myself in and nobody to come in and Peter Thwaites to record it and that is it. His wife was there. He recorded it and that was it. By that time things had happened in the UK, Melt was going down, and I had to move and I moved to South Africa and the tapes that were done because Moses wasn’t in agreement to release it. We recorded it but there had to be a time that this was released. So, it was just laying there. But then when I moved to South Africa the tapes got lost. Shit you know! I couldn’t find them anymore. Until a couple pf days after he died I found the tapes again. I found a copy because Richard Edwards who is as ve4ry meticulous person who was exactly the opposite to Chris Lewis who never writes things down properly so you never know afterwards who was playing and things like that. He always writes everything down and he made a copy of the original tape so we had a one to one digital copy which I then released, under Darkness Pass. Why darkness Pass, Monk told me afterwards that there was this painting that is called Darkness Pass which I think was Moses’s painting. And it was for him, something that helped him through.
FROM CHAPTER ONE: MUSIC MAN
circa 2000 AD
Moses was murdered out of jealousy and this everybody suspected. Travelling to the scene of this great tragedy, I stayed over at a friend’s house. The good friend’s younger brother was in a state of crisis. This late teen was undergoing a tremendous struggle with his inner self. The family were at a wits end. They were losing their beloved son. Perhaps he was turning away from his Eurocentric upbringing? Perhaps he wished himself to be born not only in Africa, but as an African? Perhaps the world of African jazz would help him find his authentic self? Perhaps?
The world of African jazz was known to be a tolerant and accepting environment that had given a nod of approval to lot of youths who might have otherwise been lost. Perhaps to be in the presence of African musicians and music, this late teen could be healed from the pressures of conforming to society?
Being a music journalist, I facillitated this brother on a journey into African jazz. He was a tall and good looking boy. His unwashed hair stood a foot above the top of his head. He may have been white of skin colour, but the weeks of personal neglect had changed his complexion to a shade of brown. His loss of self-awareness made him appear very aloof. Funnily enough, he was the splitting image of Moses Molelekwa, those few days before his death and Moses’s memory was still pulsating through the Johannesburg African jazz world.
Arriving at a jazz gathering at Kippies, the very location where Moses’s memorial service had recently taken place with a young man looking just like Moses was an extraordinary shock to witness on the faces of the music elite. The two music legends, Hotstix and Hugh looked like they had just seen a ghost. They had known Moses, and now their hearts appeared to skip a beat at this site. For them it was no less than the resurrection of the recently departed. They sung out a chorus in unison, “Moses has come back from the dead!” True to form, this brother who was not Moses at all, stared blankly into the distance, just as Moses might have done.
Within a short space of time, this brother had disappeared from a mental home without a trace, and was never recovered. The African jazz experience had not helped him at all. It could have even exacerbated his problem. And that is not the spirit of African jazz.
The mythological consequence of darkness overcoming light was even more evident than before. The power of African jazz to heal had become its opposite, a power to destroy. And this destructive energy began to sweep through the music industry. No longer were jazz festivals spectacles of celebration en masse, but wind swept gatherings of die-hards.
There was this young saxophonist from a Pretoria based band called Spirits Rejoice. He was hitting his jazz in an avant-garde style that defied comprehension. The music was almost impossible to follow. But it was raw and honest. It came from a beautiful, generous and open heart that had been wounded by the competition and jealousy in the industry. The saxophonist had become fixated in his own seriousness. Music was his last and only outlet, but it was not communicative. Nobody could understand the music and help him channel his expression into a positive direction. This young man was thoroughly depressed. He was next to kill himself.
And then it was the turn of the young saxophonist called Moses Khumalo. Moses Khumalo was Moses Molelekwa’s long-time collaborator, friend and direct understudy. They had met at a jam session in the townships. They got to know each other on the bandstand, playing a traditional South African marabi. And that was the start of a long collaboration. Moses Khumalo joined the Moses Molelekwa band and they performed together for years, playing for packed out halls, grand gatherings and big festivals. Moses Khumalo was really a nice guy, the happy go lucky kind, always smiling, always sending out this sprightly African flavour of funky sound on his sax. He had nothing to complain about and nothing to get depressed over. Even the death of Moses Molelekwa had not got him down. He had taken it to the chin with a real maturity and wisdom beyond his years and had gone onto a successful solo career that one would never have predicted to be cut so short.
Moses Khumalo, harvested absolutely no bitterness or anger. He loved all music. Moses Molelekwa’s demise had not surprised him. Moses Khumalo knew the murdered. He called it “Bad Spirit”. He said, “If you do something good for someone and they tell you it is bad, Bad Spirit attaches to you. And there is a lot of it in the music industry.”
Bad spirit can be projected through emotions such as jealousy, hatred and mean-ness. When it attaches to its victim, bad spirit hooks into the energy field and brings the person down. Bad spirit is invisible, it does not have a physical body. But it has a mental and emotional body and attaches to the mental and emotional body of its victim.