South African jazz hero Zim Nqgawana dies, age 52

Neil Tesser has written an informative post about Zim Ngqawana, the South African jazz musician who died at age 52 of a stroke May 10. Ngqawana, whose name is pronounced with a glottal “click” between the “N” and first “a,” performed at the 2007 Columbia/Harlem Festival of Global Jazz,” curated by George E. Lewis of Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies, Nqgawana, with his quartet, in that concert struck me as a powerful and original saxophonist and flutist, improvising with a heightened lyricism no doubt inspired by John Coltrane’s late period sound, but standing on its own. (photo by Dragan Tasic).

zim by dragan tasic.jpeg
His music that night (and on Zimology, his one album I’ve heard) had little overt reference to the South Africa of, say, Paul Simon’s Graceland; rather, it was stately (at times as deep as that of sombre pianist Abdullah Ibrahim) and dynamic like the best of trumpeter Hugh Masekela — with whom Nqgawana had worked — but with no pop or commercial aspirations. The Mail and Guardian Online headlines Nqgawana as a “genius,” which is a tricky term, but I have admired and can recommend his music, and be sorry that he’ll play no more. (PS and full disclosure: The Columbia/Harlem Fest also hosted the first and so far only convention of international jazz journalists in the U.S.” “Jazz in the Global Imagination,” co-produced by the Jazz Journalists Association, of which I’m pres. . .)
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  1. nawawie mathews says

    To Zim, may the Almighty grant you the highest place in heaven! & fill your grave with light.

  2. Connie Crothers says

    I am really shocked. I met Zim when he visited Max Roach one evening, several years ago. Zim was one of the extreme rare few who Max taught privately. I was impressed right away by his combination of warmth, gentleness and brilliance. I went to hear him last November, performing at The Stone with Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille. Jeff Schlanger was there, painting them as they played, creating an astonishing vision of glowing light. Zim had been asked to perform by Henry and Margaret Grimes, the curators that month. Afterwards, we all went to get a bite to eat together. Zim and I reminisced about Max, about our musical experiences and talked some about the future. He was considering releasing the music from that night onto a CD and asked me if I would write something for it. I will write it in my soul where it will remain forever.

  3. victor nze says

    Sad…sad indeed, his song Chisa is still one of my all-time favourites…loved his style of jazz..I pray for God to grant him rest