McCoy Mrubata


For McCoy Mrubata, his latest release, "Face the Music", is about acknowledging the people who have been inspirational to him, as well as acknowledging where the music comes from.

In early 2002, McCoy participated in workshops arranged by the Danish Conservatory, held at Durban's BAT Centre. This is where several ideas were sparked, and it is where he met some of the musicians featured on "Face the Music". Pianist, Luyanda Madope, guitarist, Tokoloho Moeketsi, and percussionist Tlale Makhene were all participants in the same workshops. Vusi Khumalo and McCoy were two of the instructors on subjects like arranging and big band set up. Every student brought a song and workshopped it with the group. The track, "Icamagu Livumile" came out of that workshop.

The album is also about tackling issues here at home; thanking his mentors and people who inspired him to write music, like his last-born child, Ntuthu, for whom "Ntuthu's Theme" is written. McCoy's band members were happy that he finally wrote a song called "Raw Material", as it's a phrase he uses often, to describe the music in its rough, raw, "unpolished" form. "Venomous Toads" was another idea sparked in Durban. At a function for prosecutors held at the Durban Country Club, the previous Public Protector, Selby Baqwa, as MC, made a joke about the older guys being "venomous toads", and thanked them for their contribution. McCoy liked the idea behind the joke and composed a song. He gave the raw material to Paul Hanmer and Barry van Zyl and they helped with arranging the song into its final form.

"KwaLanga" was written for Langa Township, in Cape Town, where McCoy was born. The song is a result of vivid memories of those early years. He grew up in the time of big bands and heard these kinds of sounds from the time he was around 5 years old. Rehearsals used to take place opposite his grandmother's house and he used to fall asleep listening to the music. He also heard these sounds at ceremonies initiation. "Merton's Place" was written for a very important figure who runs the jazz workshop in Cape Town, Merton Barrow. McCoy learnt a lot from him, and though he couldn't afford to study there, he studied informally for 2 months, and continued to go there for jam sessions. Merton used to run a big band that McCoy used to be part of, and which included people like Blackie Tempi, Thulisile Ngozi (Winston Mankunku's brother) and Nic le Roux.

"Face the Music" is a song for South African audiences; it's a call to really support our music. McCoy says: Some stations play our music, while others don't, so this is a call to radio to face our music, "we're going to be all over the place, like it or not". "Mr. & Mrs. Adonis" is dedicated to the memory of his late grandparents and is his attempt at demonstrating how beautiful they were. The last section of the song came to McCoy in a dream, and he feels that it was a gift from them. "Wanna talk about it?" was written for victims of all kinds of abuse. McCoy' s message: people must come forward and talk about it, or the problem will just keep getting worse.

"Face the Music" is McCoy's 4th release on the Sheer Sound label. The first, "Tears of Joy", was nominated for an FNB SAMA award for best traditional jazz album, and was well received by fans, and fast became a favourite among jazz lovers. June 1999 saw the release of McCoy's second album on the Sheer Sound label, "Phosa Ngasemva". The long-awaited album once again brought McCoy's own brand of big band jazz to the fore. The album features artists such as Paul Hanmer, Prince Lengoasa, Barry van Zyl, Andile Yenana, and Herbie Tsoaeli along with the reed man's usual band, 'McCoy and Friends'. One of the highlights of the album is a guest appearance by renowned vocalist Ringo Madlingozi on two of the tracks. "Phosa Ngasemva" speaks of the coming of age of one of the true sons of South African jazz, a reflection of his soul in its truest form.

McCoy's last release, "Hoelykit?" reminds you of why McCoy is such a great saxophonist/flutist/songwriter/musician - it was nominated for the SAMA awards in the categories of best traditional jazz album and male artist of the year. Released in July 2000, "Hoelykit?" includes such great musicians as Paul Hanmer, Andile Yenana, Barry Van Zyl, Gloria Bosman (vocals on "Romeo & Alek will never rhyme"), Herbie Tsoaeli, Dave Reynolds and Feya Faku.

McCoy Mrubata is one of South Africa's finest saxophonists, versatile on the tenor, soprano and alto saxophones as well as the flute, and has gained recognition internationally as well. The Nordic Black Theatre in Oslo invited him to perform in three musicals, two of which were based on the life of Bob Marley. The third, "Beyond the Blues" (The John Coltrane Story), ran for two months and saw McCoy playing the lead role. When he's not recording, producing, and writing music for TV documentaries or programs, he heads his own very popular band 'McCoy and Friends'.

McCoy also features on horns as part of the super group, The Sheer All Stars, together with Paul Hanmer, Sipho Gumede, Errol Dyers and Frank Paco, a collaboration that resulted in two albums, "Indibano" and "Live @ the Blues Room". Look out for the new, soon-to-be-released Sheer All Stars album, "Dance with Me", featuring McCoy, Louis Mhlanga, Sipho Gumede, Frank Paco and Wessel van Rensburg.