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Young Soweto musician giving back

By on August 2, 2019
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Musician Gives Back To Youth in the US and South Africa

By Karen Flemister

As children we often have dreams of what we will be when we grow up. Sometimes those dreams change or go unfulfilled. There is a musician whose boyhood dream has become a reality. Jazz Musician Moabi Kotu has seen his dream materialize from his origins in the inner city township of Soweto to the city of Johannesburg to Louisiana and Arizona. His childhood was spent being nurtured by his two grandmothers. They sang to him and passed on stories about his ancestors. He was exposed to a variety of musical genres including modern and traditional gospel. The struggle of Apartheid was captured through “Protest” songs he could hear throughout the neighborhood on street corners, in schoolyards, and train stations. Music was literally streaming from everywhere.
Kotu grew up being surrounded by music, from neighbors chanting to community members harmonizing unrehearsed songs. His father played the songs of Louis Armstrong, The Crusaders, and Big John Patton, which led to his passion for the jazz genre. One of his uncle’s, Sam Maile was an arranger, composer, and pianist for the South African movie, “Joburg Jim and Zonk.” In his teen years, Kotu was mentored by 4-time Grammy Award Winning Producer Milton Ndlakuse. When he was not directing the Soweto Gospel Choir, Ndlakuse assisted with Kotu’s development with the keyboards, harmonic vocals, and solo improvisation. Eventually he also added playing bass guitar to his talents by another mentor Fana Zulu, who had been the bass guitar for the famous Hugh Masekela. One highlight of Kotu’s career was his performance on SABC Africa Live that was broadcast throughout the entire continent. His first single, “Turn Around” can be viewed on a music video on the social media platform You Tube. He also released an album entitled “Emakhaya” which stands for Home. A recording he is finishing, “B.O.A.T.S.” tells African stories. These songs will be performed first on an American tour and ends in a special Homecoming tour in South Africa. This album explains the young Kotu took from Soweto, South Africa into Johannesburg, before his eventual move to the United States. It details the valuable lessons he learned through music.
His journey to the States took him to New Orleans, Louisiana which helped him further cultivate his appreciation and love for jazz music. Another love transpired there when he met a singer, Jessica, later leading to marriage. They relocated to Phoenix, Arizona and met the Arizona Goodwill Ambassador of Jazz, William “Doc” Jones. Jessica performed at the 2019 International AZ Jazz Day, that Doc Jones has produced for the past 8 years in conjunction with Herbie Hancock and UNESCO. When they realized their mutual appreciation for jazz coupled with teaching it to young people, a new partnership was formed between Kotu and Jones. They both are deeply passionate about showing young people the empowering possibilities that exposure to jazz music can bring their lives.
Kotu’s life can be seen as an inspiration to other children in South Africa who may also hear the stories of the ancestors and music throughout the villages and cities. When he returns home on his musical tour, he will be a living testament that perseverance and hard work can insure the dreams of the young can indeed become a reality. To learn more please visit: www.moabikotu.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24P2AaspOBo

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