Bheki Mseleku


Proper recognition of this fine multi-instrumentalist's (piano, composer, vocals, saxophone, guitar) talents seemed long in coming, but since 1991 this modest and dignified performer has been very much in the limelight, touring internationally and releasing several albums with major record labels, as well as featuring on some massive releases from other artists. 

Bheki Mseleku arrived on the Johannesburg music scene in 1975 as an electric organ player for an R&B outfit, and has over time adapted and grown into one of the world's finest musicians. He is one of a number of supremely talented musicians who left South Africa and its oppressive apartheid system to take up residence in London, leaving South Africa's shores in the late 70's. 

After extensive touring around Europe and the U.K., his debut performance at Ronnie Scott's in London ('87) saw him teaming up with some of the more prominent figures from London's Jazz revival scene. This eventually lead to the release of his star-studded debut album "Celebration"(1991). Featuring the likes of Courtney Pine, Steve Williamson, Eddie Parker, Jean Toussaint, Michael Bowie and Marvin "Smitty" Smith, the album was well received and supported with a heavy touring schedule, and a deserved nomination for British Mercury Music Prize for Album Of The Year. 

After the hype rescinded, Mseleku resumed his solo performances, accompanying overtly spiritual and dedicatory vocal-lines with gently rocking, township-inspired piano, punctuating the whole with sparkling runs and one-handed riffs on the tenor saxophone. "Meditations"(1992), a live recording from the Bath International Music Festival, captured this absorbing style on two long tracks. Signing to the Verve/PolyGram label at the end of 1993, Mseleku's "Timelessness" found him in the company of some top American heavyweights, including Joe Henderson, Pharoah Sanders, Abbey Lincoln and Elvin Jones, and was accompanied by more media furore.

 His fourth release "Star Seedings"(1995) and his last release of the decade "Beauty Of Sunrise"(1997) with Polygram, saw Mseleku entering a new era of success. Highly acclaimed, these albums and their respective tours saw Mseleku appealing to a wider audience than ever before. 

This brings us to the current day where Bheki gives us his latest, and greatest, offering, "Home At Last" (2003). It is here that Bheki pay's tribute to the spiritual construct that is "home." To Bheki, a self- confessed "Citizen of the World", home is not a place as such, but a spiritual construct made up of special people and relationships, those that came along on the long hard road, those that were left behind to be re-visited later. 

According to well-known journalist, John Matshikiza, this is an album that "sounds of home in a Bheki key." (This because Bheki has established a new key signature in the internationally recognized systems of musical notation.) 'However much he humbly pays tribute to the "home" that made him, and to whose image in sound he, in turn, pays homage to on these tracks, it is his eternally original spin on the music, the music of the land, the mountains, the people, the cities, the politics, the sensual violence of the blistered townships, as much as the infinitely distant music of the spheres, which he has brought us closer to in his earlier albums, that drives you through to the final beat. 

This is "home" on Bheki's terms at last.' Featuring the talents of other South African greats Feya Faku on trumpet, as well as Winston Mankunku Ngozi on sax, to mention a few, Bheki brings it all "Home At Last". The album is a spiritual journey that, although eluding categorisation, cannot be ignored or denied.