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Victor “Bra Vic” Mheli Ntoni (Posthumous)

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Silver
Victor “Bra Vic” Mheli Ntoni (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the arts, creatively using music to protest against oppression. He was fearless in expressing his views even during the period where anti-government sentiments threatened his livelihood.
Profile of Victor “Bra Vic” Mheli Ntoni

Victor “Bra Vic” Mheli Ntoni was a musical genius, born in Cape Town’s Langa Township in 1947. During his teenage years he played with saxophonist McCoy Mrubata. In the 1970s, he teamed up with Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), recording together the album Peace.

He was a renowned jazz bassist, singer, arranger and composer with a conscience that prompted him to express his disapproval and resistance of the apartheid system. One of his many notable moments in his sterling career was when he directed a musical titled Meropa, which toured Europe in 1995. He was always open to collaboration – in 1989 he founded a band “Afro Cool Concept” with Darius Brubeck; in the 1990s he worked with Hilton Schilder, Vusi Khumalo and Khaya Mahlangu in a band called “Iconoclast.”

Ntoni was no ordinary musician, his contemporary, Feya Faku, a jazz trumpeter accurately described him as, “a remarkable artist who could arrange for a whole orchestra, without touching the piano. This is highly unusual yet everything would work out perfectly in the end.”

In 1973, Ntoni ventured into theatre as a composer, actor and musical director for the musical, which went on to be staged in London’s West End and participated in the Royal Variety Performance concert. In 1976, Ntoni performed with American jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, the 1960s hit Take Five, at the Colloseum Theatre in Johannesburg. Impressed with Ntoni, Brubeck arranged a scholarship for him at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, in the United States of America (USA). There he studied harmony and composition – skills that would prove invaluable on his return to South Africa.

Musicians who worked with Ntoni, from Hugh Masekela to Vusi Khumalo, Lawrence Matshiza, Sylvia Mdunyelwa, Andile Yenana and Faku, have nothing but admiration for him. Ntoni arranged a successful musical tribute to the late OR Tambo in 2005 where he paid homage to the former African National Congress leader in exile. Those who knew Tambo well said he loved choral music so much, and what Ntoni did with that tribute was truly a proper homage to his memory.