SAMRO pays tribute to late jazz icon Theo Bophela

SAMRO pays tribute to late jazz icon Theo Bophela

Find knowledge all the time, never feel that you know enough.” – Theo Bophela

On Tuesday we heard with deep sadness about the passing of long-serving SAMRO member and jazz pianist Theo Bophela. His passing, after a long illness, was confirmed by his sons Scelo and Bongani Bophela. Bophela, who was born in Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal, was 86 years old.

In addition to being a SAMRO member, Bophela also received a Mobility Fund concert grant from the Concerts SA programme. Concerts SA is a joint South African and Norwegian project housed under the auspices of the Stakeholder Hub with the SAMRO Foundation. The programme aims to support the growth of the live music sector in the country through research, skills development, competence building and, through its work with venues and promoters, develop regular, sustainable performance platforms.  

Bophela was a mentor to many a young musician – including a certain Zakhele “Zakes Bantwini” Madida – and made an invaluable contribution towards the success of many musicians’ careers. This includes Dalton Khanyile’s Keynote Jazz group – which saw them playing various stages across the country. This era also gave birth to Theo Bophela Trios/Quartets, Jazz Resurrection Big Band, Nqwelo Afrika Jazz group, and he also wrote and orchestrated original works of mbhaqanga and marabi for KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. During the times of pianist Chris McGregor in the 60’s, Bophela worked at the Dorkay house (on Eloff Street Extension). This is where he had been invited by the “Union Artist” director Ian Bernhardt to work in the music production of Gibson Kente. “Manana the jazz project” was they very first of Kente’s productions featuring young artists such as Caiphus Semenya, Letta Mbuli, and Josh Makhene alongside other great names.

Come 1995 – when he was already 64 years old, Bophela obtained a Diploma in Light Music at Technikon Natal (now Durban University of Technology). He was adorned with 19 distinctions.

Although he had long retired as a SAMRO member and had withdrawn his SAMRO retirement annuity funds, we are dealing with the Bophela family and will be assisting with a contribution to his funeral costs.

Theo’s passion for music and musical education and development will always be remembered, and no doubt sorely missed by those he mentored. May he rest in power!