On Monday, May 15th, renowned South African jazz artist Musa Manzini passed away at the age of 51 from a fatal seizure. Manzini is survived by his three children, Yusuf Manzini, 25 years old; Fatima Manzini, 21 years old, and Ridwaan Manzini, 15 years old. Fatima is finishing her last year studying Architecture at the University of Cape Town. Yusuf is finishing his last year studying Structural Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch. Manzini’s children are studying at the top two universities in South Africa.
Born in 1971, in Inanda, a township north of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, Manzini attended high school in Cape Town and studied music at the University of Cape Town. In 1995, Manzini received the Peter Klatzow Award for composition and orchestration. Manzini returned to UCT after graduating with a music degree to lecture at the university, teaching jazz theory, electric and acoustic bass, and improvisation.
Known for playing the bass, he released five albums during his career including My Bass, New Reflections, Simply Life, Tributes & Memories, and Trust in Love. His playing style was notably influenced by the South African Cape Flats music scene, with inspiration coming from the Gugulethu, Langa, Mitchell’s Plain, and Khayelitsha townships.
In 2006, Manzini was diagnosed with a recurrent brain tumor. He underwent several surgeries, having craniotomies to remove the mass in 2013 and 2017, as well as craniotomies to combat hydrocephalus, a complication from the surgery when fluid accumulates on the brain. In 2018, Manzini, while undergoing active brain surgery, played his guitar, a feat that gained the jazz bassist notoriety.
Manzini performed with many musicians across the country, including René McLean, Jimmy Dludlu, Jonathan Butler, Gavin Minter, Nhlanhla Magagula, Kevin Gibson, Mark Goliath, Judith Sephuma, and Winston Ngozi to name a few. He performed in venues across the globe, including at the South Africa North Sea Jazz Festival, which was later called the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, cultural festivals in New Orleans, Joy of Jazz, Muscat, Jazzathon, Arts Alive, São Paulo, Santiago de Chile, and Buenos Aires.
Manzini’s manager, Sbu Tshabalala, confirmed the jazz bassist’s death on social media, saying “It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Musa Manzini. One of the best bassists, a friend, a brother, family, a Muslim.”
Following his death, there has been controversy over how Manzini should be buried. Manzini, a practicing Muslim, converted to Islam years before marrying his first wife, Shaheeda January. In his 2011 will, Manzini specifically stated that he wanted a Muslim funeral. Manzini’s second wife, who he later divorced, confirmed his wishes.
Unfortunately, Manzini’s sister, Thembi Manzini, and Palesa Mazamisa, his girlfriend of two years, announced he will be buried in Richards Bay in a Christian ceremony while simultaneously announcing there is no money for funeral expenses and launching a fundraising campaign to cover the costs.
Manzini’s eldest son, 25-year-old Yusuf Manzini, courageously tried to honor his father’s wishes according to his will and give him a “Janaza,” a Muslim funeral. In a shocking decision, the judge in KwaZulu-Natal ruled against Yusuf Manzini and ignored Musa Manzini’s last will and testament.
Manzini’s children, Manzini’s family based in Cape Town, the January family, and friends held a Thikr, 7-day Janaza Salaah for him presided by Hafiz Abdul Karriem. In the end, Manzini’s children and other family members respected his wishes and bid him an Islamic farewell.
Manzini was buried in Richards Bay in Durban on Friday, May 19th.