Sipho Gumede - Legendary So. African Bassist

Our sincerest condolences go out to the Gumede family, his very many close friends, the people that worked with him over the years, as well as those many many fans that will all be feeling the pain of this insurmountable loss...

The life-story of Sipho Gumede is a long and elaborate one. He has worked with too many musical icons and legends to list here, a pioneering force as an individual on the South African musical and jazz scenes. (His achievements were recognised as long as five years ago with lifetime achievement awards, as well as a cupboard full of SAMA and other awards earned over the years).

A down to earth man of integrity and honour, always conscious, well informed and a vocal supporter of human rights and the struggle. Sipho was also instrumental in bringing people back together again in the days of reconciliation thereafter through his music, values and actions.

Sipho Gumede was an extremely proud South African. He loved his homeland so much that he remained in the land of his birth even in tough and turbulent times past when others flew the coup as exiles, remaining musically active with SAKHILE amongst others, spreading messages of solidarity, change, love and peace. A proud Zulu he furthermore compromised his career to a degree by living in Durban (KwaZulu Natal), where he was born, sharing and giving something back to the territory and people he so loved.

Through his magical musical heritage, which fortunately does succeed him and will live on forever, his refreshing attitude and outlook on life, Sipho Gumede has said so much that words really do fail

The extent and seriousness of the illness that caused Sipho Gumede’s death was discovered only late last week. Upon returning from some events in Swaziland two weekends ago Sipho was suffering from serious stomach pains. A visit to the clinic last Monday saw him leaving with medication that only made him feel worse. He headed back to hospital last Tuesday and essentially booked himself in. It was discovered that he had internal bleeding, which was reportedly stopped. Upon a visit by SHEER SOUND managing director Damon Forbes, accompanied by long-time friend Pops Mohamed, on this past Sunday, Sipho looked well on the road to recovery The shock and horror of the sudden announcement of his passing the following evening was completely unexpected.

It was intended that Sipho Gumede would be honoured with the inaugural KZN Living Legends Award 2004 at the Standard Bank Awesome Africa Festival in September. He will still be honoured, but unfortunately it will have to be posthumously in the form of a massive special tribute featuring several of his best friends on Saturday 25th September on the Joy of Jazz Stage. A special donation will be made to his family. More details will be released on 11th August when Awesome Africa launch the Festival.

Details of memorial services, funeral arrangements and the like will be made available as that information becomes clear and confirmed in the near future.

Rest In Peace proud son of Ethekwini, now gone, but never to be forgotten


Sipho Gumede was born in Cato Manor, Durban. His earliest musical memory is of playing guitar and pennywhistle. The guitar was homemade: a 5-gallon tin, wood and fish gut. He and his friends would play the tunes of Spokes Mashiyane, Zakes Nkosi and Lemmy "Special" Mabaso. At the age of 12, Sipho went to stay on a farm some 30kms from Umlazi. He was exposed to many different kinds of music - vocal and soulful traditions, the music of weddings and funerals. After school each day, he’d pass the time watching cattle whilst practicing on a borrowed guitar. This period was crucial in the formation of Sipho’s musical outlook.

Sipho returned to Umlazi at the age of 16 and met the late great jazz guitarist, Cyril Magubane who introduced him to the music of Wes Montgomery and the world of jazz. He also met Dick Khoza and landed his first professional job as a member of the Jazz Revelers, switching from guitar to bass. In 1970 Sipho headed for Johannesburg, arriving in a strange city he headed for the only place he knew. Dorkey House in Eloff Street. There he met the great musicians of the time. He joined Dennis Mpale and Cocky Tlhotlhlalemaje in "Isintu" and worked with Dennis’ band at the Pina Culo Music Festival. Thereafter Sipho rejoined Dick Khoza who was based at the Pelican Nightclub. The Pelican was a great musical laboratory in the 1970’s. On any given night, legendary artists would pop in for a jam or perform as part of the Sunday night cabaret.

Later Sipho joined Gibson Kente and toured the country. He then left Gibson to concentrate on practicing and perfecting his technique, upon hearing the music of Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim and Chick Corea. He then teamed up with Jabu Nkosi, Barney Rachabane, Duke Makasi, Dennis Mpale and Enoch Mtlelane as the short-lived "Roots". After the demise of the "Roots", Sipho met Bheki Mseleku forming a dynamic and creative partnership, which eventually led to the formation of "Spirits Rejoice" - a group that provided the space to create, which both artists had been looking for. "Spirits Rejoice" was an innovative and creative band that explored the many facets of jazz-fusion. In 1982, Sipho together with Khaya Mhlangu, decided to explore fusion coupled with the African sounds he had grown up with, and so "Sakhile" was born. It was here that Sipho was able to merge the divergent musical paths traveled over the years and produce magical songs like "Mantombi". Since then Sipho has continuously been creating new and challenging music through a series of inspired collaborations. He toured the United States of America, Canada and the Bahamas with Harry Belafonte and Letta Mbulu. Along with Caiphus Semenya, Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa and Letta Mbulu, he produced the musical show "Buwa" which told the story of South African music in the context of South African history. The show played in Harare, Zimbabwe and several other African states before it closed in Sweden. 1987 saw the rebirth of "Sakhile". They toured Switzerland, Italy and the United Kingdom. They also represented South Africa at the ‘Meeting of the World’ music festival which took place in Finland and the Soviet Union. Sakhile also toured several African states and together with Abigail Khubheka they played all the major cities in Germany. Later that same year, Sipho performed with Caiphus Semenya, Letta Mbulu and Hugh Masekela at the Montreux Jazz Festival in an African Evening produced by Quincy Jones.

In 1992 his solo album ‘Thank you for Listening’ won an OKTV award for best African Fusion Album. In 1995 he was awarded with an achievement award from Johnny Walker Black Label for his outstanding contribution to the South African Music Industry. 1996 saw Sipho as a finalist at the 3RD Annual FNB South African Music Awards in three categories - Best Producer, Best Contemporary Jazz Album, Best Contemporary Jazz - Other Languages, for the album "Ubuntu / Humanity", the follow up to his B & W debut "Down Freedom Avenue".

The following year saw Sipho release his debut on the Sheer Sound label - a double CD retrospective of his outstanding career entitled "20 Years of Life". The album was well received and consisted of scarce and classic material primarily off the albums "Working Man" and "Village Dance". The second disc offered fans a pleasant change in the form of an atmospheric, electric performance recorded live at the Bassline in Melville by SAfm.

"Blues for my Mother", the second release by bass legend Sipho Gumede on the Sheer Sound label, marks Sipho’s first recording of new material in three years since "Ubuntu" (Humanity). During the three year’s prior this release, Sipho has maintained his reputation, as one of South Africa’s most prolific songwriters and composers. Combined with an intensive and extensive touring schedule, he has become one of the country’s most sought after live acts, always attracting large audiences. Dedicated to his mother, the album is also, according to Sipho, a tribute to all the nation’s women, who are in essence, the backbone of the country. Featured on the album are a host of some of the finest musicians, including a number of Sipho’s friends: Paul Hanmer, McCoy Mrubata, Mandla Masuku, Xoli Nkosi, Jerry Ngcobo, Phumzile Ntuli, Mfanafuthi Mahlobo and Sbusiso.

In January of 1999, Sipho performed in two shows as bass guitarist for Joe McBride on his tour to South Africa, with McCoy Mrubata and Barry van Zyl making up the rest of the backing musicians. The US jazz pianist enjoyed working with Sipho, and praised the abilities of all the SA musicians who got to play with him, in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Sipho played to large audiences in Joe’s band at the Mega Music Warehouse concert and at the Morula Sun Jazz ‘99 Festival, after having only been together for two days to rehearse the material.

"New Era" came at a time when Sipho was riding the wave of success with his previous album "Blues For My Mother" having just reached the twenty five thousand mark, both Sipho’s and Sheer’s first gold album. The new album once again accentuates Gumede’s extraordinary talents as both songwriter and composer with his own brand of African smooth jazz on an album featuring artists from both Africa and America. The album was recorded at Sipho’s home studios in Durban with programming and mixing done at the Heads Up International studio’s in Texas with Martin Walters. Included on the album are some of the world’s best known smooth jazz artists among them the likes of Joe McBride (keys) and Andy Narell (steel pan), Wayne De Lano (sax) and Manny Rodriquez (acoustic piano).

"New Era" was nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in the 2001 South African Music Awards.

"The Best of Part 1" is an album compiled of 14 of the best songs re-recorded for this album. Part 1 is only an introduction to the music of Sipho Gumede over his successful lengthy music career. Having come a long way, Sipho takes us back to the songs that made us buy his albums, attend his live shows and made him one of the most loved jazz musicians in South Africa. Sipho invited fellow musicians such as McCoy Mrubata, Louis Mhlanga, Moses Khumalo, Bruce Cassidy and Shaluza Max to record these golden oldies with him.

Consisting of classic tracks such as "Faces and Places" and "Don’t Mess With Me", this album is the ultimate CD for the Sipho Gumede fan and a return to the Sipho Gumede we met years ago.

Sipho also features on bass as part of the super group, The Sheer All Stars, together with Paul Hanmer, McCoy Mrubata, Errol Dyers and Frank Paco. They have two albums to their credit, "Live @ the Blues Room" and the 1999 album "Indibano". The latest All Stars album, "Dance with Me" was released in 2002, and earned the group three SAMA nominations, of which they won two: for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and Best Engineer Peter Pearlson.

Sipho and Pops Mohamed (as Kalamazoo) were nominated for "Best South African Traditional Jazz Album" at the 2002 South African Music Awards for their album "Kalamazoo 3". November 2003 saw the release of the Kalamazoo 4, entitled "New Crossings".

Sipho’s latest album "From Me To You" is made up of simple South African melodies, based mostly on the bass and guitar. The 2nd track, "Nontuthuzelo", is named in honour of his daughter. "Sithethelele", which features Shaluza Max on lead vocals, is a prayer appealing to the Creator, to find an answer to the AIDS virus, for we have tried everything else. Sipho recorded and produced the album himself in his studio Sigude Home Studios, Durban.

Sipho has recorded with legends including: Timmy Thomas, Kippie Moeketsi, Margaret Singana, Dollar Brand, Winston Mankunku, Harare and Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, Juluka, Stimela, Brenda Fassie, P.J. Powers, Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu, Louis Mhlanga, Mango Groove, Leslie Ray Dowling, Vicky Sampson, Andy Narell to name but a few.

For more information, please contact Sheer Sound: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Sipho Gumede
  • Subtitle: Dies of Cancer - July 26, 2004
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