Happy birthday Louis Moholo-Moholo . . . may the rhythm in your heart beat a lot longer

Louis Moholo-Moholo . . . still beating out a rhythm at 80 years. Picture source:  Social media

Louis Moholo-Moholo, one of the founding members of the legendary South African jazz group, The Blue Notes, celebrates a big birthday today. The master of the drums turns 80 years today.

The enduring Moholo-Moholo has outlasted and outlived most of his contemporaries who popularised be-bop, mainstream and avante garde jazz in the Sixties. (Abdullah Ibrahim – then Dollar Brand – is one of the few still around who played with Moholo-Moholo).

The Blue Notes were the trendsetters when they hit the scene in Cape Town in the early Sixties. But as quickly as their flame burned brightly, it disappeared from the South African scene. The apartheid regime made it impossible for the group to survive here because it was made up of four blacks and a white South African.

That was just inviting trouble in apartheid South Africa.

So the group – Moholo Moholo, Dudu Pukwana on alto, Mongezi Feza on trumpet, Nikele Moyake on tenor, Johnny Dyani on bass and Chris McGregor on piano – headed for Europe and the UK in 1964 to seek fame and fortune.

Fame they certainly achieved. This vibrant group of young South Africans caught the eye of the purist jazz lovers who were taken by their free-form jazz style mixed with the throbbing sounds of African rhythms.

A young Louis Moholo-Moholo during his time with Brotherhood of Breath. Picture source: Social media

The group played at the much talked about Antibes Jazz Festival in France in July 1964 which further enhanced their growing reputation.

The Blue Notes morphed into the Brotherhood of Breath and the group became an even bigger drawcard in London and Europe even though they had lost a few members along the way.

Louis Moholo-Moholo formed his own group and played with a number of other leading jazz lights.

It was going to be decades before he would be in the shadow of Table Mountain again. Nelson Mandela would be a free man and apartheid as a law would be gone.

As big a name as Moholo-Moholo is, he largely unknown on the broader Cape Town scene.

But Cape Town is where it all started for him. His love for music and drums in particular came from listening to scout bands that walked the suburban streets of the Cape Flats.

This blog had plans to interview Moholo-Moholo do get his views on life, music, the younger generation and anything he wished to talk about . . . but after six months of trying I still have not been able to buttonhole the man. He is constantly on the move. One month he is in Berlin, then he is in Port Elizabeth, now I believe he is celebrating his birthday in London where he lived for many years.

As I have said many times before, musicians like Moholo-Moholo were pioneers in South African entertainment history. Although the Blue Notes had a short lifespan on the South African scene, they did more than enough to be lauded for achievements. The younger generation of jazz lovers should know about them.

It’s been tough trying to have a chat to Tebogo Moholo-Moholo because he still travels overseas for gigs and has a base in London. Maybe one day soon I’ll be able to sit down with him and get inside his head to let him tell me what it was really like back in the day.

But for the moment – DRUM ROLL PLEASE!! – happy birthday Louis Moholo-Moholo.


Video of The Blue Notes playing in Europe



An early picture of jazz group The Blue Notes. They left South Africa in 1964 because a “mixed” group had little chance of thriving in apartheid South Africa. Picture source: Social media

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