Words by Sally McVeay
Producer, artist, and label head Aroop Roy connects the dots between electronic music and unbound natural sounds. Via his label ‘Vive La Musique’, he embarked on a three-year quest to track a tune called ‘Uthhinia’, which was the catalyst for this release. There were no copies to be purchased anyplace online. Eventually, he found producer Greg Cutler, which led to the start of a friendship and learning experience.
Not only did Greg possess a copy of the elusive album, but it also transpired that he had contributed to more than 300 records, many of which were masterpieces, and that he had been a significant character in South African music during the 1970s and 1980s. Even the most ardent South African music lovers had never heard of many of the hidden gems Aroop discovered while digging through Greg’s collection. With Sipho, Greg had worked on multiple albums, including those from his jazz and roots bands Spirits Rejoice and Sakhile.
Sipho Gumede (1949-2004) was a South African jazz bassist, composer, and producer. Born in Cato Manor, Durban, and grew up in a heavily influenced musical background. Guitar and bass were familiar at a young age.
Gumede was a prolific musician and worked with many prominent artists both in South Africa and internationally. He was particularly known for his fusion of jazz and traditional African music, creating a unique sound that was widely celebrated.
Some of his most notable albums include “Peace, Love and Music” (1995), “Ubuntu” (1997), and “Thula Mntanami” (2001). He also received several awards for his contributions to music, including the South African Music Award for Best Jazz Album in 2002.
Sipho Gumede made significant contributions to South African jazz by fusing jazz with traditional African music and infusing it with political and social messages. He was known for his innovative approach to playing the bass and for his ability to create complex and intricate rhythms that blended different musical styles. One of Gumede’s most significant contributions to South African jazz was his role in promoting and popularizing the use of the bass guitar in jazz music. Before him, the bass guitar was not widely used in jazz in South Africa, and he contributed to establishing it as an essential instrument in the genre.
Gumede’s music was also deeply rooted in South African culture and history, and he often incorporated traditional African rhythms and melodies into his compositions. He also used his music as a platform to address social and political issues, particularly during the apartheid era in South Africa. His music was a form of resistance and a call for social justice and equality.
Gumede’s influence on South African jazz continues to be felt today, and he is remembered as one of the most important figures in the genre. His innovative approach to playing the bass and his commitment to fusing different musical styles helped to shape the sound of South African jazz and inspire generations of musicians.
Gumede passed away in 2004 at the age of 55, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most important figures in South African jazz.