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Julian Sebothane Bahula

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Julian Sebothane Bahula Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to and achievement in the field of musicand the arts and the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa.
Profile of Julian Sebothane Bahula

He is honoured for his outstanding achievement in the genre of jazz music, being an excellent ambassador of South African music and contributing to the development of music in South Africa and the African diaspora.

Julian Sebothane Bahula was born on 13 March 1938 in Eersterust, Pretoria. His family was later forcefully removed to Mamelodi. He is a composer, musician and promoter. He is a founder member of the famous musical group known as the Malombo Jazz Men of the early 1960s. He was famous throughout the 60s and early 70s in South Africa because of Malombo music and first acquired a reputation as a drummer. Considered an indigenous kind of jazz, Malombo was extremely close in spirit to the sounds of the ancestors, and was traditionally popular in the more congested and modernised areas of the South African townships.

Bahula went to Europe with the band Joburg Hawk at a time when the politics of apartheid were impacting both on life and music-making.

His move to London was the start of a new era for Bahula, who immediately joined the African National Congress under the chief-representative of Reggie September who introduced Bahula to the Anti-Apartheid Movement. He started working with musicians around town, forming his very first band in Europe, called Jabula. He toured Europe, working with all the anti-apartheid movements, raising needed funds and advancing awareness of the struggle.

Jabula had built a following for African music, so Bahula saw the need and formed Tsafrika Productions to promote African music.

The very first Mandela Birthday Concert in 1983 was the brainchild of Bahula, co-promoted with the late Mike Terry of the United Kingdom (UK) Anti-Apartheid Movement. Bahula invited Hugh Masekela to come and headline at the event. For the 65th Mandela Birthday Concert, Bahula booked a combination of African groups from other parts of the continent to perform. This was the first time that many African groups performed together on the same stage in London.

Julian Bahula did not look back, bringing over musicians of high calibre from the United States of America, South America, Europe and Africa. He promoted many exciting projects for the community and ethnic groups in London. He booked a lot of musicians who were also political refugees and his series began to symbolise a movement for change. Players such as Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Nigeria), Miriam Makeba and Masekela were among the performers whose early British appearances were organised by Bahula. One of his most important moves was establishing a regular Friday night, featuring authentic African bands at the London venue The 100 Club. Here, homesick comrades in exile from Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and southern Africa were entertained and consoled.

Bahula has been as tireless a promoter of the music of his homeland in his adopted country as he is an onstage rhythm activator.

The South African-born, often UK-based percussionist, bandleader, record label owner and concert promoter has produced some lovely music over the years with exhilarating ensembles of excellence. All his records are worth owning although his studio recordings never quite capture the live experience.