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I met bass player Ernest Mothle in Pretoria through my friendship with the late Geoff Mphakati at a time when it was unheard of to associate with black people in white neighborhoods.  That didn't matter because we interacted and played music together at the American Embassy as part of a United States Information Service (CIA?) sponsored music appreciation society which was open to all races, and because we were gathering at the embassy (which ironically was in the same building as the Bureau of State Security's spy network) we were able to get away with it.  It was at one or more of these events when I played with the great Kiepie Moeketsi, and the young Moses Mogale amongst others.  I also met and played with guitarist Philip Tabane,  Lefifi Tladi's Dashiki band (formerly Malombo), and a terrific vocal outfit calling themselves "The Jammer Kids". 

 

But my best moments were with Ernest whose acoustic bass sound and musical sense struck deep chords within me.  Imagine my disappointment when Ernest announced he was leaving for London in the early seventies.

 

It was something like 15 years later when we were once again able to play together - soon after my arrival in London I spotted his name in one of the music listings and we had a wonderful reunion.  He soon introduced me to the jazz scene as he was experiencing it, and I met (and played with) Brian Abrahams' band District Six, came across Dudu Pukwana on occasion (when he would appear out of nowhere, sax in hand, and jam with us), and through them and others met many South Africans who had been living in the city for up to twenty years - some of them having arrived in the UK with the King Kong show, never having returned "home".

 

I was excited when Ernest called me up one day and asked if I would like to be part of High Masekela's band for a gig at the Alexandra Palace, alongside Osibisa and other known groups.  The occasion was Nelson Mandela's birthday celebration and I jumped at the opportunity.  We duly rehearsed the set and played to a capacity audience on the day.

 

And it was Ernest who invited me to join his band Mamelodi along with Lucky Ranku, Churchill Jolobe and Pinisa Saul to travel to Edinburgh for the festival in 1984.  It was a long drive, and the gig was a little strange in that I got the impression that the audiences never received what they expected!  The music was both intense and soulful, with all of us pouring out a variety of emotions in our playing - each with his/her own yearning for the land of our birth, and for an end to the divisive social and political circumstances that were throttling our country's hopes for the future.

 

Ernest and I enjoyed some special moments together in my home studio and when I listen to some of our music of the day I recall the sense of brotherhood that we enjoy to this day - now both back in South Africa (Ernest in Pretoria and me in Cape Town) and I have a strong feeling that we have still some unfinished business to take care of ...