CityLife Arts

Lawrence Matshiza, the death of a jazz muso who worked with almost every musician of note in South Africa

By Tembi Mahambehlala

The other side must have given Lawrence Matshiza a blow your socks off song welcome. Several notables of the creative world would have sung a lively song to usher him in. Counted among the singers are Hugh Masekela, Sipho Gumede, Sibongile Khumalo, Miriam Makeba, Victor Ntoni and Moses Molelekwa.
All the above are some of the musicians that Matshiza jammed with on thisplanet called earth.
He worked with Masekela on the evergreen album Hope. Victor Ntoni chose him to produce his debut CD, Heritage.
He was part of the mix on the Gins and Spirits of Molelekwa. Ringo Madlingozi was fortunate to have Matshiza produce, compose and play in Sondelani and Vukani. The two releases are the foundation on which the national fame Ringo got built.

Matshiza later put out ace production work in the Judith Siphuma New
Beginnings album. The album collected four SAMA Awards, including the Best
Producer gong.

The star of the guitarist twinkled from an early age. It showed potential to
shoot above the skies.
So, it did not take long for the musical genes he inherited to catch the
attention of the sharp talent scout and Playwright Gibson Kente. His father
was a drummer and his mother a singer. Kente roped Matshiza in on one of his
productions in Johannesburg.

It was an invitation that resulted in Matshiza spending more than
thirty-five years away from home, Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha).
The years got spent filling his name on page-after-page of the history of
South African music heritage book.
He became part of a group called Spirits Rejoice. Duke Makasi was there, and
so was George Tyefumani and Sipho Gumede. The quartet backed the female
group Joy, famous for the hit song Paradise Road.
Matshiza joined the band Thetha. The bandmates were Bakithi Khumalo, Vusi
Khumalo, Wings Segale, Bushy Seatlholo, Khaya Mahlangu and Bongani Mdunge.
Thetha became the backing band for the Shell Road to Fame.
In later years Matshiza regrouped with Vusi Khumalo and called themselves
Dondo. The duo released an album titled Changing Times.
In 2004, Matshiza became Musical Director for the Patty Austin band when she
came to perform in South Africa.

The musical footprints of Lawrence Matshiza are in the recordings of top
names such as McCoy Mrubata, Letta Mbulu and Siphokazi.
He jammed with Keiko Matsui, Harry Belafonte, Cyndi Lauper and Peabo Bryson.
Add on the list Frank McComb, Paul Simon, Caiphus Semenya, Gregory Porter,
John Legend and Ray Parker Jr  Incognito.

In 2007, he got in charge of a 60 piece ensemble called Mzansi Sings A
Tribute To O.R. Tambo. He co produced the ensemble with the late bass
guitarist, Victor Ntoni. They embarked on a tour of London for performances,
including at The Barbican Theatre. This production toured Mzansi and was
featured for a week at State Theatre during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

His last big gig was at Ebubeleni Virtual in December last year where he was
part of the big band from Gqeberha that backed all the artists that were
featured

Born on 13 November 1960, Matshiza had settled back home in Gqeberha. His
life got claimed by the inevitable destiny of all men, death, on 18 July, 2021.

May his soul rest in peace.

.Tembi Mahambehlala is a music promoter who has worked with the late jazz guitarist Lawrence Matshiza.

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5 thoughts on “Lawrence Matshiza, the death of a jazz muso who worked with almost every musician of note in South Africa

  1. WHAT AN HONOR TO HAVE BEEN PART OF THIS HISTORY! The man was SIMPLY SOMETHING ELSE! I will ALWAYS CHERISH the moments SHARED ON STAGE and in his PERSONAL SPACE!

    BHELE…. KHUBONI…. LANGA LOKULUNGA!!!🤝👊🏾👊🏾

  2. Such a beautifully detailed and magnificently narrated tribute to Lawrence! Thanks a lot Sis Thembi.

  3. Thanks for a sterling account on the life of Lawrence. We got along fine with him. He was my brother in clans and we did a couple of family gatherings together in the past. A true musician, in and out and most revered and respected by the world of music. Sleep in Peace Bawokazi!

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