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Prominent South African bassist Musa Manzini has died

Johannesburg – Prominent South African jazz bassist Musa Manzini has passed away Monday at Helen Joseph Hospital.

The renowned bass player and part-time University of Cape Town (UCT) music lecturer died on Monday, (15 May 2023), at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg after suffering a fatal seizure. Manzini was 51 years old.

Born in Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal, Manzini was first hospitalised in 2006 after he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. 

Subsequent to the surgery, he had five more craniotomies – three to remove the tumour that had grown back, and the others to deal with the hydrocephalus – an accumulation of fluid in the brain. Epilepsy and seizures are common complications of craniotomy. 

The musician made headline news in 2018 after he underwent an awake craniotomy, where he played the guitar while the surgeons removed the tumour.

Over the course of the years, Musa released 5 albums, namely, New Reflections (2000), Tributes & Memories (2002), My Bass (2004), Simply Life (2007), Best of Musa Manzini (2009), Trust in Love (2012). 

Some of Manzini’s hit songs include ‘Sebenza Ukuze Kungen Imali’, ‘Blue Bass’, ‘Inanda’, ‘Renaissance Song’ and ‘Just Like Cape Town‘ just to mention a few. 

Manzini has worked with a number of revered South African jazz musicians including stage actor cum musician Antonio Lyons, Rene MacLean, Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi, Vusi Khumalo, Jimmy Dludlu, Jonathan Butler, Gavin Minter, Nhlanhla Magagula, Kevin Gibson, Mark Goliath, Judith Sephuma, Sipho Mabuse, Elvin Dyers, Menyatso Mathole, Selaelo Selota, Joe McBride, UCT Jazz Orchestra and many other musicians popular during that period. 

A highly talented and prolific musician, Manzini was known for his exceptional skill as a bass player. A UCT BMus degree holder, Manzini received the Professor Peter Klatzow Award for composition and orchestration in 1995. 

It was a big challenge for Manzini coming from the township and being introduced to classical music at tertiary level, having to analyse the music of Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Debussy, Schönberg and other European composers. 

He was also a part-time music lecturer at UCT, instructing electric and acoustic basses, jazz theory and improvisation to bridging course students. Manzini’s style and sound have been influenced by the multi-faceted Cape Flats music scene, mostly townships like Gugulethu, Langa, Athlone, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha. 

Manzini played the bass as a lead instrument, pioneering in the footsteps of Sipho Gumede, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and John Patitucci. He was also well-versed in the acoustic or double bass.

Manzini has performed across continents and countries which enabled him to be a well-rounded musician, drawing experiences from these travels and learning the different world cultures. 

Manzini performed at a variety of places including the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, cultural festivals in New Orleans, Joy of Jazz, Muscat, Jazzathon, Arts Alive, São Paulo, Santiago de Chile, and Buenos Aires, as well as many other jazz club performances, functions and musicians’ workshops, and university master classes.

Over the years, Musa released five albums, namely, New Reflections (2000), Tributes & Memories (2002), My Bass (2004), Simply Life (2007), Best of Musa Manzini (2009), Trust in Love (2012.

Manzini will be laid to rest in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday, 20 May 2023.

*This article was first published in The Bulrushes (

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