Jonas Gwangwa
Jonas Gwangwa.jpg
BornJonas Mosa Gwangwa
(1937-10-10)October 10, 1937
Orlando East, Soweto
DiedJanuary 23, 2021(2021-01-23) (aged 83)
Spouse(s)Violet Molebatsi Gwangwa (late)

Jonas Mosa Gwangwa was a South African award-winning jazz musician and activist. As a composer, he produced theme songs and soundtracks for shows such as the soap Generations and the movie Othello. He has won numerous awards his music throughout his career.



He was born on 10 October 1937 in Orlando East, Soweto.[1][2]


His Violet Molebatsi Gwangwa, who passed away on 6 January 2021.[2]


He enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music after he relocated to the US.[1]


Gwanga was one of many musicians mentored by Alto Saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi. He then joined the 1950’s band The Epistles as a trombonist. The band helped him gain some recognition before it disbanded in 1959. Gwangwa then went on to become a composer of note and became the first black South African to release an album.

Gwangwa gained popularity in the US when he was featured in the Sound of Africa concert. Two years later he returned for The Main Event, a tour that also featured saxophonist, Hugh Masekela. South Africa’s political environment in the 1960s forced Gwangwa to relocate to the US, where he spent the next fifteen years. He went to the US after completing a European tour with the famous King Kong production that also featured Miriam Makeba.[1]

Gwangwa served as composer, arranger and musical director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, the ANC group.

He created an original score and theme song with George Fenton for the much-heralded Richard Attenborough film, Cry Freedom, which received Academy, Grammy, Bafta, Golden Globe and Anthony Asquith Award nominations and won the Ivor Novello and Black Emmy awards.

Gwangwa returned to South Africa in 1991.[3]

Awards And Honours

Gwangwa was bestowed with a meritorious award from then-President Nelson Mandela in 1995 and received the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold in 2010.[2]


Gwangwa died on 23 January 2021. 23 January, has also claimed the lives of two other notable jazz musicians, Hugh Masekela and one of Zimbabwe’s greatest musical and cultural icons, Oliver Mtukudzi.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jonas Mosa Gwangwa, South African History Online, Published: No Date Given, Retrieved: January 23, 2021
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 POWER DIGITAL,JONAS GWANGWA PASSES AWAY, Power987, Published: January 23, 2021, Retrieved: January 23, 2021
  3. Jonas Gwangwa, The Presidency, Published: No Date Given, Retrieved: January 23, 2021