Fellow musicians and friends of the late drummer and producer, Sisa Sopazi, gathered at The Orbit jazz club in Braamfontein last Saturday to pay tribute to the multi-talented musician.

“Only the greatest of musicians could get such a remarkable send-off,” a friend whispers to me as we watch Lindiwe Maxolo singing dexterously at The Orbit, last Saturday.

Many in the South African music scene knew him as Mr Funk Daddy. Sisa Sopazi, a 35 year old Eastern Cape born drummer, composer and producer passed away suddenly in June earlier this year, leaving fellow musicians, friends and family devastated, “He has left a void that will never be filled,” pianist Nduduzo Makhathini told The Herald newspaper.

The best way to celebrate the life of a fierce musician, is to assemble others like him to cast in stone his memory through music. The Sisa Sopazi tribute and fundraiser concert did just that. The day of the concert, 08 August, was meant to be the date Sopazi would perform new compositions from his upcoming second album, at The Orbit.

Trumpeter, Mandla Mlangeni delivered an emotional performance in memory of Sisa Sopazi at The Orbit. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Trumpeter, Mandla Mlangeni delivered an emotional performance in memory of Sisa Sopazi at The Orbit last Saturday.                                                                                                                                                         Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Apart from his own compositions and musical work, Sopazi worked closely with many musicians, including Thandiswa Mazwai, featuring as the drummer and assistant producer of her second album Ibokwe. An experience Sopazi said was “always overwhelming because she’s a very talented singer & very creative.”

To honor the multi-talented and well recognized musician, songs from Sopazi’s debut album, Images and Figures – which was nominated for Best Jazz Album in the 2014 South Africa Music Awards (SAMA), were performed by the Lindiwe Maxolo Quintet and the H3 ensemble, along with specials guests whom were Sopazi’s friends and fellow musicians.

The musicians played Sopazi’s compositions like Ekomani, You Are and Nomthandazo, with compassion, depth and creativity – all qualities Sopazi was known to embody.

The young and talented Linda Sikhakhane blew his tenor saxophone like it was his last time, accompanied by his fellow band mates, Sthembiso Bhengu (who also played in Sopazi’s band, Sisa Sopazi Quartet) on the trumpet and Senzo Mzimela on trombone.

The animated drummer Sphiwe Shiburu and double bassist Thembinkosi Mavimbela gave the sound a warm jazz base, with the dapper Jacob Thomo on piano, delicately stroking his keys.

Double bassist, Thembinkosi Mavimbela playing tunes from Sisa Sopazi's debut album, Images and Figures at the Orbit. Photo: ZImasa Mpemnyama

Double bassist, Thembinkosi Mavimbela playing tunes from Sisa Sopazi’s debut album, Images and Figures at the Orbit.                                                                                                                                                           Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Guest performers included pianist and vocalist Yonela Mnana whose bluesy voice was coarse yet sincere and emotionally charged, legendary double bassist Lex Futshane, vocalist Titi Luzipho and bassist Banda Banda amongst others.

The highlight of the night was the bursting drums of Ayanda Sikade, and the wailing trumpet of Mandla Mlangeni. They created an atmosphere which was not somber but commemorative. Watch their full performance below:

Mnana finished off his performance of You Are by saying, “You know Sisa, Sisa was Mr Funk hey. I think he would really appreciate this.” Which goes to show that the artists were not mourning the death of Sopazi, but instead were celebrating his life. Celebrating his enormous contribution to the South African music scene.

Proceeds from the concert will be given to Sopazi’s family.