Baba Mokoena Serakong

The late and great South African guitarist Baba Mokoena Serakong

 


Simon Baba Mokoena was born at Umkumbane in Durban in the late 40's. Baba started making music at the age of 12, playing a home-made guitar made from a five-litre oil container. At 17, he picked up his brother's acoustic guitar and has never looked back. Baba's first gig was with a group called Mhlathi and His Comets, whom he stayed with for four years. Next he met Dick Khoza, a jazz drummer. They formed a small jazz group with Pat Matshikiza on piano and Victor Gaba on bass, playing gigs around Durban.

Albums:

  1. Madala Kunene & Baba Mokoene Serakong - First Double 1 & 2

featuring on:  Outernational Meltdown - Hungry on Arrival  


After two years Baba left the group and went to Johannesburg to play Mbaqanga, because he had always wanted to play African music. He played for a group called Izintombi Zamangwane. This was followed by guitar work on Gibson Kente's musicals 'Sikhalo' and 'How Long'. Baba joined the resident band at the Pelican Night Club, playing with Winston 'Mankunku' Ngozi and Khaya Mahlangu, to name but a few. This stint at the Pelican was a chance to explore different kinds of music ­ Mbaqanga, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues ­ and to meet names like American jazz organ player Jimmy Smith and US group The Realistic.

Baba then moved back to Durban, gigging in clubs playing 'Top 40' hits until he met 'Sarafina' playwright Mbongeni Ngema. He was impressed and asked Baba to join the band for his musical 'Township Fever', which opened at Johannesburg's Market Theatre in 1991. The show went on to tour America, opening in New York. After the 'Township Fever' tour, Baba worked with Letta Mbuli and Caiphus Semenya in shows around South Africa. Baba returned to Mbongeni Ngema's company, touring Europe with 'Sarafina', 'Magic at 4am' and 'Mama'.

On his return from Europe in 1993 Baba added his artful guitar playing to Sipho Gumede's Melt 2000 release, 'Down Freedom Avenue'(BW051) with Madala Kunene. During the 1994 Outernational Meltdown recordings with MELT 2000 in Johannesburg Baba met and recorded with Airto Moreira and Jose Neto . In 1999, Baba teamed up with Madala Kunene to record a collaborative album for Melt. The pair finished the production at Brownhill Studios, along with Bernard Sibusiso Mndaweni on bass with a release of the album in 2002 only months before Baba played his last chords.