Sipho Gumede SA

Sipho Gumede

The late Sipho was born in Cato Manor, Durban, in the heart of KwaZulu/Natal, his earliest memories were of playing the guitar and penny whistle as a member of a street corner Kwela band. His first guitar was assembled from a five gallon can and a length of wood, strung with fish gut. After school on a farm near Umlazi, he would watch the cattle and practice guitar so that by the age of 16 he was proficient enough to attract the attention of the late, great jazz guitarist, Cyril Magubane, who introduced him to the music of Wes Montgomery and the jazz world.


  1. Down Freedom Avenue

Joining his first band, the Jazz Revellers, and switching from guitar to electric bass, Sipho decided to take the plunge as a professional muso. After moving to Joburg in 1970, his career began to take off and he toured with many of the leading local artists of the era. An encounter with another great jazz evangelist, Bheki Mseleku, led to the foundation of a dynamic musical partnership and the formation of Spirits Rejoice, a group which explored many of the facets of jazz-fusion but took the sound further by blending in the traditional African rhythms Sipho had garnered over his years on the road. In 1981, Sipho joined Khaya Mhlangu and MabiThobejane to form Sakhile, which provided him with a broader palette on which to mix the rich musical colors of his native Natal and which instantly became central to the seminal Sounds Black series of concerts. In 1985, Sipho Gumede's debut solo album, 'Faces and Places' was an early indication of his commitment to writing passionately and honestly about his African homeland. Since then Sipho has been continuously creating new and challenging music mainly through a series of inspired collaborations. In 1986, a group of musicians including Sipho and Hugh Masekela produced the musical show, Buwa, which told the story of South African music. He toured the States with Harry Belafonte and toured the world with a re-formed Sakhile, who found an international audience educated by Paul Simon's Graceland. At Quincy Jones' invitation, Sipho performed alongside Hugh Masekela at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Sipho's 1992 album, Despite a career history that reads like a roll call of classic South African jazz recordings, with credits including work with Dollar Brand, Timmy Thomas, Winston Mankunku Harare, Kippie Moeketsie, Mango Groove and Vicky Sampson and many more, Sipho has moved back to live in his home town, where he teaches music and performs for the young people in the townships. Together with Pops Mohamed, Sipho Gumede organised the Outernational Meltdown jams.


He appears on Free At Last(BW076) and co-produced Healers Brew (BW077) and Jazzin' Universally (BW078). Sipho's first solo album for MELT 2000 (then B&W Music), Down Freedom Avenue (BW051), released in 1994, is infused with the pride, the passion and the hopes of his native South Africa at the historic moment of its emergence from political darkness into a new dawn of freedom an remains the best selling album. This was followed in 1995 by Ubuntu - Humanity(BW084), which features a number of other M.E.L.T. artists, including Moses Molelekwa, Mabi Thobejane and Pops Mohamed. Sipho died in 2004 from lung cancer shortly after re-uniting Sakhile with Mabi Thobejane and Kaya Mahlangu. For more of Sipho's work and recent releases of a DVD with his music videos please check this website: