So in 2001/2 myself and a group of students came together and organized a Bheki Mseleku tribute concert (perhaps first and only that Mseleku witnessed) that we called ‘Bheki’s Corner’ the idea was to celebrate Mseleku’s life and music, and how his very existence encouraged us towards a new musical directions. The concert took place at the Jazzy Rainbow and was attended by Bab’uBheki Mseleku, Bab’uZim Ngqawana among other significantly important guests. This was indeed an honor for us, it kept us in touch with Mseleku, even when he moved back to London.
After Mseleku’s departure in 2008, I lacked a sonic language for remembering him, I basically couldn’t play his music without tears in my eyes, I was too scared. In retrospect I realize that I was also sad and couldn’t accept the fact that he was now on the other side. I had questions to ask…
In 2016, it was through Brother Eugene Skeef that I again renewed my strength to remember this great master and his songbook; what it meant in the current times. This soon culminated in a tribute concert at the Orbit featuring Mseleku’s friend and band-mate Bab’uEddie Parker who had come to join us for Listening to the Ground at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. This gave me so much healing, so much hope.
As part of this healing process, through the British Academy, York University and Stellenbosch University I did my masters thesis on Mseleku’s life and music, which in many ways has reminded me how important it was for me to find deeper ways of connecting with my master and a lost friend.
Where I’m really trying to get is that; I’m thankful for this moment, and the love and support you’ve all been showing in recent projects around Mseleku, firstly the one in July supported by the Market Theatre and lastly the ‘Rediscovering the Genius of Bheki Mseleku’ supported by Pegs Music Project, joined by scholars and musicians, including another Mseleku follower Brother Afrika Mkhize and others.
In African cosmologies and beliefs, it is said that an ancestor can only live for as long as the ones on this side remember them and chant their names, their music… Today I again remember Mseleku.
Below is a letter I wrote to Mseleku, it’s also part of my thesis: http://scholar.sun.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10019.1/103795/makhathini_encountering_2018.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y