SA mourn musician's death

Johannesburg - Tributes poured in on Monday for acclaimed bass guitarist Gito Baloi who was murdered in Johannesburg over the weekend.

Baloi was returning from a show in Pretoria to his home in Kensington on Sunday when he was shot at by two men in Nugget street in central Johannesburg. He was struck in the neck and managed to drive about 50m. He got out, walked about 10m and collapsed and died.

Police inspector Chris Wilken said that only his wallet was stolen.

Mozambican-born Baloi learnt to play on discarded paraffin tins and reeds and played his first public performance with a borrowed bass guitar, according to his website.

He used the proceeds of these shows to support his family in war-torn Mozambique and after extensive travels through the country, came to South Africa.

He became one of the country's most respected bassists and collaborated with some of the world's top musicians including Tananas with Steve Newman and Ian Herman, with whom he recorded seven albums, Kenya's Simba Morri, Sting and Tracy Chapman.

He also played with resistance poet Mzwakhe Mbuli and recorded on his albums Change is Pain in 1986 and Unbroken Spirit in 1989 and produced Durban band Landscape Prayers' album Bush Telegraph, among other projects nationally and internationally.

'Spiritual performance'

He recorded three solo albums, and his last gig was a duo with Landscape Prayers' Nibs van der Spuy at Pretoria's Lucit Candle-Gardens on Saturday night.

"We are usually fully booked, but on Saturday night there were only about 20 people," said owner Gideon van Eeden. "It turns out that is how it should have been. It became a very intimate, special, very spiritual performance," he said.

Brad Holmes, owner of the now closed Bassline club in Melville, where Baloi played regularly with Tananas or with other musicians, said: "He was the most gentle individual I have ever known in my life and he was a very good musician. We are all traumatised."

The African National Congress Youth League said: "Gito was an icon for millions of young people and he was contributing to the creation of a free South Africa through art.

"We send our heartfelt condolences to the Baloi family and the entire music fraternity, praying that God grants them strength and wisdom during this awful period of their bereavement."

Damon Forbes, director of his record company Sheer Sound, said his death had robbed the music world of a gifted and talented composer and musician.

Inspiration to artists

"He had such a warm welcoming spirit and didn't have a problem with anybody. The rest of South Africa knows him as a musician but he was an incredible member of a very loving family. His children (Lorha and Tiva) absolutely adored him and the mix between him and his wife (artist Erika Hibbert) was a really good set up. They were very much in love," Forbes said.

"Gito had achieved so much in a relatively short time (he was 39) and left his mark but there was so much more that he could have given."

The Gauteng government also issued a statement sending condolences to his family saying he was a role model and an inspiration to aspiring artists.

Calling his murder "barbaric", Gauteng's safety and liaison MEC Nomvula Mokonyane called on people to come forward with information that might help find his killers.

"It is a shame that people who are professionals and proudly South Africans who continue to work tirelessly in order to uplift the standard of development are now being targeted by ruthless criminals," Mokonyane said.

His record company has arranged a memorial service for him at the Newtown Music Hall (the old Mega Music Warehouse) from noon to 14:00 on Wednesday.

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