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Tsepo Tshola during the 80th birthday celebration of Caiphus Semenya. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo
Tsepo Tshola during the 80th birthday celebration of Caiphus Semenya. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo


Losing great musical talent is never easy and saying goodbye is even harder. Within the sorrow, we’re able to remember the great strides they made during their career.

This time we remember Tsepo Tshola, the award-winning jazz musician with a voice of silk, who passed away on Thursday due to a Covid-19-related illness in Teyateyaneng, Lesotho.

Also known as the Village Pope, Tshola began his long and illustrious career as the lead vocalist of jazz group Sankomota (originally named Uhuru) in 1979, which gave us hits such as Papa and Stop the War, and were a pivotal part of the civil rights struggle against apartheid. “I cannot draw a line to any man that rules/ I can only plead for the life of men,” he sang.

Sankomota continued to give us hits until the release of their last album, Frankly Speaking, in 2001.

Thereafter, Tshola began his solo music career and released his debut album, A New Dawn, in September 2002. This album solidified his place as a music legend. Just short of a dozen songs, the album received critical acclaim for its smooth, well-considered composition, and bold statement of humbleness, with songs that were reminiscent of his days in Sankomota, to the swingy beat of Makolilo, which gave everybody something to get up and move their feet to.

What followed was his rise to critical acclaim, being recognised as one of the greats, in line with heavyweights such as Hugh Masekela, and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

The musician continued to release albums throughout his career, such as Lesedi and The Village Pope.

Throughout his 40-year career, Tshola managed to keep the spirit of jazz alive throughout the nation, even taking his brilliant musicianship to other genres and collaborating with artists such as Jub Jub on the song Ke Kopa Tswarelo, and Superman with rapper Cassper Nyovest.

This allowed him to stay prevalent in modern music, even performing at coveted award shows such as the SA Sport Awards in 2011.

During his career, he was able to take his music to the world, travelling to perform in places such as Europe.

Later in his career, Tshola began making gospel music, a natural progression in his career as the child of a preacher. With numbers such as Ho Lokile, he sought to uplift the masses through the power of song and religion, and worked with gospel greats such as Rebecca Malope.

Tshola received many awards, including the Metro FM music award for Lifetime Achievement and, six years ago, the YoMzansi Lifetime achievement award, solidifying his place as a pioneer in South African music.

Aside from these, many acknowledged his kind and gentle personality, as he was honoured with a Commander of the Most Loyal Order of Ramatšeatsana award by His Majesty King Letsie III.

His death has been met with great anguish throughout all social media platforms, many sharing the effect his music had on them, while for those who knew him personally it has allowed them to reminisce on the interactions they had with the musician, and how his music affected their lives.

A great loss for music indeed. Rest in eternal peace, Village Pope.


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