Legendary singer and songwriter Gloria Bosman is remembered

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Nov 23.2022. The singing sensation Gloria Bosman conducting a music workshop at the Joburg Theatre days before Joy of Jazz festival. Photo: Tebogo Lestie
Nov 23.2022. The singing sensation Gloria Bosman conducting a music workshop at the Joburg Theatre days before Joy of Jazz festival. Photo: Tebogo Lestie


It has been a tumultuous few weeks for South African arts, and the passing of local jazz icon Gloria Bosman has made this no easier.

This week is yet another sad one for the arts. Following the sudden passing of rapper Costa Titch at the Ultra SA music festival, iconic singer and songwriter Gloria Bosman has passed away. 

Hers was a talent upon which many others were able to rise and yet, somehow, the news of her death was trending below Big Brother Titans and has now been completely pushed out by this week's antics of The Real Housewives of Durban. Says a lot about us. It’s always a shame when the fraternity of local arts loses someone, but, for a local legend to go and for the news to be met in such a meek and mild way shows where our nation's true obsession with the arts lies. You need to be trendy to make an impact on the news cycle or an artist caught with their pants down somehow; then you’re worthy of page three.

Speaking to City Press earlier today, a close friend and colleague of Bosman, Siphiwo Mahala, remembers his time in the presence of this talent. 

Mahala said: "Like most lovers of the arts, I got to know Gloria Bosman through her music in the mid 1990s. Growing up in Makhanda [formerly Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape], I enjoyed seeing her on stage when she graced the National Arts Festival, where she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2000. After experiencing her on stage and admiring her musical talent over the years, I finally got to meet her in person in 2008."

Much to his surprise, she had read his debut novel and had wonderful things to say about his writing.

"In 2020, we both contributed to the award-winning book, Joburg Noir, edited by Niq Mhlongo. After having read her story in the book, I knew that I wanted to work with her on Imbiza Journal, which was at conception stage. 

"We released our inaugural edition in April 2021, and Gloria Bosman was one of the lead contributors. Since then, she has contributed to each of the five editions that we have released so far. In a sense, she was our first columnist, though we could not officially employ any columnists because we did not have funds to do so.

Gloria Bosman remains the most consistent contributor to the publication.

Siphiwo went on and said that, as a musician, Bosman's talent was well known and widely recognised. She was a vocalist, guitarist and composer.

Among other things, she had the special ability of versatility across musical genres. She started singing in a church choir and studied music and performing arts at the Pretoria Technikon. As a result, her music blends jazz, opera, R&B and African traditional rhythms.

Siphiwo believes this imbued her music with depth and a special touch of crossover appeal and durability. 

READ: Aymos on his emotive hit Fatela

"In addition to her music, over the years she established herself as both a stage actor (John Kani's The Lion and the Lamb) and on-screen actor (Muvhango). She was in constant search of knowledge, and she spent the last two years studying in the Western Cape. In an Imbiza article titled I Sing Because I am Happy, Bosman wrote, "Singing connects us to emotions we never knew existed, as voices rise, making yodelling sounds and the chants that are birthed out of poetic utterances."

More than anything, over the past 15 years, Mahala got to know Bosman as a great human being. He will miss her humility, which was a big part of making people feel comfortable around her. 

He adds: "She was very smart, funny and compassionate. She was always affirming the next person, assuring you that you were loved and appreciated. This was expressed both verbally and through her writing. In one of her articles, she asked, rather rhetorically, 'What kind of human experiment shall we be if we fail to acknowledge the extensive and diverse work brought to our attention by some of the greatest voices that spoke to our existence, shaped our way of thinking, not forgetting the heart-wrenching impact they had on our very souls.'"

"In reflecting on his relationship with Dolly Rathebe, Can Themba once wrote: 'The great Dolly Rathebe once sang the blues to me. I didn't ask her. She just sidled over to me on the couch and broke into song. It was delicious.' This is exactly how I felt when Gloria Bosman sang for me on my birthday in 2020. Her humility, humour, warm personality and infectious smile will be sorely missed."

READ: You and Angie were the only people who thought she was winning an Oscar

Bosman was a native of Soweto and her career encompassed timeless music – a fleeting concept these days – and some silverware in the form of two SA Music Awards, 11 nominations and two Kora [All Africa Music Awards] wins.

Bosman’s catalogue was an onslaught of heartfelt and emotively driven music that is comprised of hits such as Too Much Heaven (1999), Love Blues / Mbombela (1999) and Smoke Gets in your Eyes (2002).

Just a month ago, the 50-year-old Bosman announced that she was joining the board at the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro).

She battled against a brief illness that claimed her life this Tuesday, and we expect the legend to be celebrated throughout the weeks and months ahead.

Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse sent out a heartfelt message to his late friend, expressing the high esteem in which he held her.

The Bosman family yesterday confirmed her passing, and immediately issued a statement: "It is with profound sadness that we share that, in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday, March 14), we lost the rock of our family; our beloved mother, grandmother and sister, Gloria Bosman, who came to fame for her soulful and soothing voice. After a short illness, she transcended peacefully at her home, surrounded by family."

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