Video: Still 'all that jazz' at age of 84

EIGHTY-FOUR years old and still a performer, Samuel Tshiyembe is passionate about jazz.

The Slo’ Foot Brothers frontman Tshiyembe is the last original member  of the  King William’s Town afro-jazz band  formed in 1953, and will perform with his younger crew at the Guild Theatre next week.

Tshiyembe was 23 years old when the band  formed. Now a quartet, in its earlier years there were more members –  Adnijah Magalela, Alton Mpisi, David Mahlulo and Philemon Jaceni – who have  all passed away.

“We are delighted that our music  is still relevant. For a while  we  thought it only appealed to the older generation, but  lately we’ve been surprised to find university students  saying they enjoy our music,”  Tshiyembe said.

When the Daily Dispatch interviewed the group in its June 29 2005 issue, it reported that the group had entered the Shell Road to Fame competition in 1998, where it managed to reach the gala finals held in Johannesburg, finishing second in the contemporary music category.

The article said the group’s original name  was Hayi Khona  Brothers  but somehow it  never  fitted.

“It was decided that every member should go home and come back with a name.

“Alton Mpisi came with the name  Slo’ Foot  King  Brothers  and that is how we came to be,” Tshiyembe said at the time.

“Mpisi  said it meant  ‘steady but sure’. That is how he saw the group and that is how it has been.”

Younger brother, Joseph, 72, who performs in some of their songs, joined the group in 1997 to become  manager.

“The music Slo’ Foot makes heals the soul. Sixty-one years on, the group is still in demand,” he said.

Joseph said  the band had been supported over the years by the department of arts and culture and a number of  municipalities.

“We perform at various events, from weddings to government functions and graduations,” he said.

Tshiyembe continues to be the entertainer of the group. “I dance, play the guitar and sing.  I love doing this, people love seeing me doing the kwasa kwasa ,” he said.  Dispatch readers can watch Tshiyembe show off his moves by visiting www.DispatchLive.co.za

Tshiyembe said although he had  contemplated retiring, the other band members always convinced him otherwise. “I want to go join my late brothers, I know they went somewhere beautiful and I  want to be with them again,” he said.

He said at times during  performances he got emotional. “Sometimes it’s as if they are right next to me singing with me and I find myself crying”

Joseph said  last year when  Tshiyembe started crying during one of their performances  people wiped away his tears with money.

“Without him the group doesn’t exist. He is the glue that keeps it together.”

Joseph said their albums – Njengebadi and Sukundilandela – were still hits with their many followers. “When we released a new album in September this year, people were still asking for our old albums,” he said.

lCatch the band performing live at the Guild Theatre from 7pm next Friday. Their show will feature another legend, Retsi Pule, who will be backed by Claude Gawe and Xolani Mnyaka. Tickets cost R100 and are available at Computicket and from the Guild Theatre in East London.

lOut of the Vault  is  an opportunity for  readers to   request us to   follow up on  stories  that have appeared in the  Daily Dispatch over the years. If there is  something we have  covered that  was of great interest to you and you  believe we  could follow it up, please  e-mail us on   juliab@dispatch.co.za  or   ziphon@dispatch.co.za  or call  Zipho or Julia on (043)702-2000.

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