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The South African Harry Moyaga has had a long and remarkable career as both musician and visual artist. Whilst still a child Harry joined a band in New Pietersburg led by Oupa Otto Mmamabolo on alto,Truck Masebe on Trombone, Tommy Mangena on Tramprt. The band was called Mmama Greenside Band.

In 1962 Oupa said to Harry the Band is falling apart, here are the instruments, find boys your age and learn with them. The first person Harry thought of was Gilbert Malotane because Gilbert was a wizard on Pennywhistle, Harry handed him the alto saxophone and Harry himself took the tenor. Drums were given to Isaac Morerwa whom was later replaced by Lewis Maja. This Band, called Young Aces, was later transformed into Jazz Oxide after the three of them were recruited by the late Peter Masemola who played bass with his cousin MoonMasemola alongside who played tenor. This band played the greatest jazz in the northern part of South Africa.

1964 started taking art lessons and became a popular portrait artist in his hometown of Pietersburg. Harry also started taking music lessons from Teacher Kamooi. At this time in Pietersburg, Harry in Jazz Oxide got to share the stage with South African jazz giants such as pianist Gideon Nxumalo, guitarist General Duze, and bassist Morris Manana. On his second visit Gideon Nxumalo was accompanied by Allen Kwela on guitar, Denny Boy Sibanyoni bass, Rose Nkosi vocals and Kippie Morolong Moeketsi then South Africa’s top alto saxophonist. Other shows at this time included pianist Pat Matshikisza, Early Mabuza, then South Africa’s best drummer. Also vocalst Joe Lopez Ngwetshana, trumpeter Elijah Nkwanjana and tenor player Nick Moyake. These visits made Pietersburg the capital of jazz for the north Of South Africa.

1967 Jazz Oxide appeared for the first time at Mmamelodi Jazz Festival in Pretoria and made an unforgettable impression to the likes of Ray Nkwe a festival promoter who introduced Harry to the jazz musicians of central and southern parts of South Africa.

1969 completed his art lessons and moved to Papatso Curios which was at the border of Hammanskraal and Pienaarsrevier. Harry started to live the life of a fulltime artist. At this time he came across a book by Barbara Tyrell called‘The Tribal People Of South Africa’. The book was hand illustrated. Harry made miniature busts of these illustrations out of clay and the Bantu Investment Co-operation crafts section bought them and made copies out of Verdyte or Tiger-Eye stone and exported them abroad. Harry moved to Temba and visited the art Galleries in Pretoria were he started to be exhibit his work at galleries like Gallery D`Art, Etno Africa, as well as in group exhibitions around Pretoria City.

1971 Harry moved to Johannesburg. For two years he played with musicians like Allen Kwela, Morris Manana, Nick Moyake, Beki Koza, Stompie Manana, Elijah Nkwanjana, Kippie, Morolng Moeketsi and many other. Harry was known to Ravan Press and illustrated front covers of some of the Stuffrider Magazines, which were unpopular with Apartheid Government. Amongst their banned magazines three were illustrated by Harry. Harry also created a poster of Bantu Steve Biko, which was titled Stuffrider series one and circulated by Ravan Press. Stuffrider series two depicted the face of Miriam Makeba protruding on the continent of Africa, and that poster never got pressed for Ravan Press was under pressure. Harry also illustrated the front cover of a first edition of FORCED LANDING by Mothobi Moutlwatse.

1973 art promoter Yashna Buffacci discovered Harry and invited him to join the South African Arts Association which was sponsored by South African Tourism and South African Airways to exhibit contemporary South African black art in countries like Italy, France, Germany, Holland and Greece.

1977 was invited to do a one-man exhibition by Jacob Brunnen Gallery in Stuttgart, Germany.

1978 was invited by Julian Bahula and Jonas Gwangwa to play at a Festival in Botswana.

1984 played with Rene McLean Peter Molobye and Phillip Meintjies, in Mmabatho, and shared the stage with pianist Tete Mbabisa, drummer Dick Khoza and trumpeter Tex.

1986 invented a design of a tent with an intention to manufacture. Unfortunately apartheid prevailed and instead he lost two houses and two cars.

At this time he went into rural areas in search of the original rhythms of southern African music. He met with the Hottentot musicians, Koi-Koi musician (Bush-Man) and Koi-San musicians (Masarwa). As they were the first people in southern Africa, Harry says “ the roots of southern African music must be with them” also says “ I realised that South African Township Jazz was influenced by american jazz and church music”.He studied their dance rhythms and also the traditional rhythms of Zulu, Sotho, North and South, Xhosa, Venda, Shangaan and Mapoka Ndebeles. Borankana musicians and the Koi-San musicians in Botswana”

1995 went back to South Africa from Botswana where he was commissioned by South African Breweries to make a monumental sized bronze bust of President Nelson Mandela, which presently adorrns the entrance to the South African Breweries Centenary Center.

1998was commissioned by Botswana Government to create four murals of seven meters high for the entrance hall of their TV building.

2001 moved to the UK

2002 commissioned by Coin Street Festival, South Bank, London to put together a South African Jazz big band that included South African jazz musicians based in UK who had been in exilebecause of the apartheid regime and had lost touch with their tradition and culture.

2004 recorded album ‘Inspiration’ featuring music played the South African Jazz big band at the Coin Street Festival. This music is based on the rhythm and dance of the Koi-Koi, Koi-San, (Basarwa) Bushman people.

Personnel on the recording as follows:
Claude Deppa Trumpet
Lucky Ranku Rhythm Guitar
Helda Park Drums & Percussions
Kari Bannerman Lead Guitar
Sammy El Salahi Bass
Andile Mkhosana Piano
Harry Moyaga Soprano sax, Alto sax, Tenor sax, flute and Keyboards

2005 signed record deal with KMR Company in Pretoria South Africa.

2006 moved to Manchester and recorded his second Album titled Seipati.

2007 met Jim Parris, the founder member and bassist of Carmel. Decided to work with Jim to create the Harry Moyaga Band. The new lineup would feature 4 or 5 saxophones and a rhythm section. The band would play much material taken from the album Seipati.

Ref: partly taken from the S.A. Times

2009 The Harry Moyaga Band (HMB) appeared in the Xtrax Decibel Showcase in Manchester - watch a video of the performance here. In this performance Moyaga’s writing revealed the sound of South African jazz layered with the indigenous rhythms of the region.

The lineup included:
Harry Moyaga - soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax and flute
Jim Parris - electric fretless and acoustic bass
Simon Moore - drums (Jocelyn Brown, Dennis Rollins, Carmel)
Al MacSween – keyboards (Ruby Turner)
Mark Ellis – alto and soprano sax (Carmel)
Kenji Fenton – alto sax (6pac)
Ben Pinchard – tenor sax
James Corry – baritone sax (Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamiroquai)

Both Claude Deppa and Tony Kofi are currently appearing with the band. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa Claude Deppa has long been a major force in the UK jazz scene. Tony Kofi, born in the UK to W.African parents, is now of international renown both as a sideman plus with his quartet.

For more info on Tony Kofi visit his Myspace page and for more info on Claude Deppa visit the African Musicians Profile website

Download and listen to a free mp3 track from the Harry Moyaga Band - Khunanwa - here.

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