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Mon, 07.27.1925

Kippie Moeketsi, South African Musician born

Kippie Moeketsi

*"Kippie" Moeketsi was born on this date in 1925. He was a South African jazz musician, notable as an alto saxophonist.

Born into a musical Johannesburg family, Jeremiah Morolong Moeketsi was the youngest of 11 brothers, and one sister who was a nurse, all but four of whom played an instrument. Growing up in George Goch township was unpleasant for him and he was often truant. According to the Johannesburg official website, "His mother used to go looking for him, shouting: 'Kippie-Kippie-Kippie', as if he were a chicken" hence his nickname.

At 20 he started playing clarinet but would soon move on to the saxophone. Influenced by his pianist brother Jacob Moeketsi, Kippie's career began playing in shebeens with his group, known as the Band in Blue. Over the years he played with several bands, including Shantytown Sextet, the Harlem Swingsters, and the Jazz Epistles that brought fame to him, Abdullah Ibrahim (or Dollar Brand as he was known then), Jonas Gwangwa, and Hugh Masekela.

Moeketsi claimed that he taught Ibrahim everything he knew about music. Ibrahim has credited Moeketsi with introducing him to the music of his greatest influence, Thelonious Monk. Often introduced as "Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro" (Abdullah Ibrahim wrote a composition of that title to feature him), Moeketsi joined the cast of Todd Matshikiza's musical King Kong, which would take him to London in 1961.

After the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, most of his contemporaries went into exile, but he returned to South Africa. In the oppressive circumstances, he would not perform for four years. He was sometimes referred to as "the father of South African jazz" and as "South Africa's Charlie Parker". After many years of alcohol abuse, Moeketsi died penniless and disgruntled on April 27, 1983, aged 58.

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