Last month South Africa lost another one of its musical giants with the passing of Lemme Special Mabaso. Described as one of the pioneers of kwela music, Mabaso was a master pennywhistler, starting his first band at the age of just ten. The Alexandra Junior Bright Boys was comprised of Mabaso, his two brothers, and three friends, and together they would busk on the streets of Johannesburg. In 1958, the Alexandra Junior Bright Boys became one of the first black groups in South Africa to be featured on a record, with a second album, Lemmy Special, being released by Gallo Records the same year. Two years later Mabaso joined the cast of the iconic musical, King Kong, and at just fifteen years old was the youngest member to tour with the show internationally.
As kwela made room for jazz, Mabaso moved away from the pennywhistle and took up the saxophone, working as a session musician for a number of years before joining the famous mbaqanga group, Soul Brothers. Mabaso had the honour of playing with the group when they performed in Oslo in 1993 at the awards ceremony where Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk were jointly recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lemme Special Mabaso passed away on the 8th April 2018 after suffering a short illness. He is survived by his son and daughter.
Mabaso may no longer be with us, but the memory of his music will live on for generations to come.