South African bass guitarist and composer Sipho Gumede died on Monday, July 26, at the Parklands Hospital in Durban, reportedly of lung cancer. Gumede was 52 years of age.
Gumede worked with many legendary musicians and was considered a pioneering force on the South African jazz scene. His achievements were recognized as long as five years ago with lifetime achievement awards, as well as a cupboard full of SAMA and other awards earned over the years. Gumede also accompanied pianist Joe McBride with performances in Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein.Sipho Gumede was born in Cato Manor, Durban. His earliest musical memory is of playing guitar and pennywhistle. The guitar was homemade: a 5-gallon tin, wood and fish gut. He and his friends would play the tunes of Spokes Mashiyane, Zakes Nkosi and Lemmy “Special” Mabaso.
At the age of 12, Sipho went to stay on a farm some 30kms from Umlazi. He was exposed to many different kinds of music – vocal and soulful traditions, the music of weddings and funerals. After school each day, he’d pass the time watching cattle whilst practicing on a borrowed guitar. This period was crucial in the formation of Sipho’s musical outlook.
Gumede appeared on two Heads Up releases, Smooth Africa (HUCD 3054) and Africa Straight Ahead (HUCD 3079). On Smooth Africa, he co-wrote “Gumba in Durban” and “When Days Are Dark, Friends Are Few.” Here is the “When Days Are Dark, Friends Are Few”