Langa music legend M’Brooks departed

2016-03-10 06:00

Joel M’Brooks Mlomo is no more!

Mlomo is one of the founding members of Langa most famous big band, the Merry Macs, which existed for about three decades.

A student of Tammy Hawker; he witnessed the very birth of the Langa Jazz scene and has himself taught dozens of musicians and singers.

Until a few years ago M’Brooks was still playing the guitar. An ardent musician with a passion for the arts, he was often with pencil and paper, even in old age.

Born on the 23rd June 1923 in Ndabeni, after his parents, John Lea settled there after they settled there from Lady Frere in the former Transkei. A decade later, the family was uprooted with many other and were relocated to Langa, as part of the Group Areas Act. His father had died when he was only four years old and his mother was forced to keep the embers burning for little M’Books welfare.

He started singing at the age of 12, listening to songs by African and American musicians.

He played in many other vocalist groups the likes Rythmn Voices of Cape Town and his last known group was the Sentimental Monarchs, all from Langa. He also sang with other greats like Joe Zibi and Peter Hashe. After Tammy Hawker taught him alto saxophone, tap dancing, M’Brooks went on to form his own band with a friend.

He studied music and used to compose for the vocal groups. He was presented an award by Dollar Brand at the opening of the Langa Hall.

He also took his talents to a contest that was held at the Alabama Theatre in Loop Street, District Six. He was taught to play the piano by Harold Coe, when he also met Moses Molelekoa. He shared his talent by teaching a lot of children how to play saxophone, sing and tap.

M’Brooks was married to Colleen “Muntsu” Mlomo, nee Mantsha. They had a daughter Nosipho who preceded him in death.

M’Brooks is survived by Sandile, a grandson and Mandisa, a nephew. He lost his life after battling diabetes for many years, which led to both legs being amputated. Farewell son of the soil, you may be gone, but your music will always echo in our ears.

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