Pat Vuyo Matshikiza (10/11/1938 – 29/12/2014)

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Pat Matshikiza, South African pianist (Photo Tony McGregor)
Pat Matshikiza, South African pianist (Photo Tony McGregor)

Pat Vuyo Matshikiza was born in New Brighton, Queenstown on 10 November 1938, into a family headed by a piano player who worked for the local bakery as a bread delivery man, who himself came from a musical family. Pat Matshikiza’s father Meekly ‘Fingers’ Matshikiza spent his evenings after work playing the piano, or tuning it after it had suffered a day of key banging by the Matshikiza siblings. Meekly Matshikiza was the official pianist for the eisteddfodau whenever they came to Queenstown. Todd Matshikiza, composer of the musical King Kong and Meekly Matshikiza’s younger brother was also a strong influence on Pat Matshikiza. [GARD align=”center”]

After completing his secondary schooling, Pat Matshikiza enrolled for a teaching diploma at St Matthews, a missionary establishment near Keiskammahoek under the Mathole Mountains. During his time there, the mission and church organist Mrs Humbleby left for England on some urgent family business and Pat Matshikiza took over from her, initially playing by ear but learnt to read music and soon had mastered George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. [GARD align=”center”]

In 1962 Pat Matshikiza moved to Johannesburg where he started attending jam sessions at Dorkay House where he jammed with the likes of Chris McGregor and others who later left for exile. At around this time he also took over on piano from Gideon Nxumalo in Mackay Davashe’s Jazz Dazzlers and by the mid 1960’s was playing with Early Mabuza’s The Big Five. Pat Matshikiza went on in 1975, to compose Tshona! with Kippie Moeketsi which is considered one of the most recognisable tunes in South Africa’s musical history. As a result of the political situation and limited opportunities for black musicians in apartheid era South Africa, Pat Matshikiza worked for Sun International playing the hotel circuit for most of his career. He returned to the limelight in 2005 when he recorded a retrospective album titled Seasons, Masks & Keys.

Pat Matshikiza died at his home in Queenstown on 29 December 2014. May he rest in peace.

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