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Jazz guitarist Billy Monama

Jazz guitarist Billy Monama, who hosted a five-day workshop taking music students through the history of SA guitar styles, wants some of the best guitarists included in the music curriculum.

Monama presented South African Guitar Styles – The Five Day Experience at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein. He wrapped up the workshop with a performance featuring the facilitators who worked with him.

Sharing 25 years of guitar experience, Monama focused on the basics and important styles like African jazz, acoustic era, kwela, mbaqanga, maskandi and Xitsonga. Co-facilitators included Themba Mokoena, Mbuzeni Mkhize, Marhoya Chauke with special guest Sipho “Hotsix” Mabuse.

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Jazz guitarist Billy Monama

Jazz guitarist Billy Monama
Jazz Musician Billy Monama Photo Delwyn Verasamy

Monama presented the workshop in practical fashion, playing the styles while sharing important information about some of the best guitarists between 1950 and the 1980s.

Speaking to Sowetan, Monama said he embarked on research about guitar players after he struggled to get information about maskandi guitarists while doing an assignment at school. He took it on himself to create content on SA black guitarists to assist music students.

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His research included reading books and living in Inanda, outside Durban, just to learn maskandi guitar style music. The end result of years of research is the release of his forthcoming tutorial book Introduction to South African Guitar Styles Vol.1 in September, which he plans to take to school once it is approved. 

 “The past five days music students learned about guitar players in South Africa. They were learning something that is not even part of their curriculum but important when we talk about South African music history.

“Their music curriculum still focuses more on European music. What I am saying is that there should be a balance. They should study both European and South African music equally. What is happening right now is that we are perpetuating Bantu education, yet we speak of transformation,” Monama said.

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“I was shocked to discover that there were no books on South African guitar playing.  I spoke to a lot of elderly musicians asking about the best guitars and they gave me a few names and I researched them and their style. I told myself that this has to change. Black people’s stories are being told by white people.”

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