African Music Encyclopedia

West Nkosi 

photo of West Nkosi

West Nkosi, originally from Pretoria, South Africa, is a musician, arranger, and composer who began his career when he formed his first kwela (tin pennywhistle) band, the Pretoria Tower Boys, in the late 1950s. He soon started playing pennywhistle for other groups and his reknown spread as he did recording sessions with them. As a result Nkosi started looking for his own recording contract. Soon Nkosi mmoved to Johannesburg to join the premiere kwela group at that time, Spokes Mashiyane and His All Star Flutes.

Nkosi used his savings as a domestic worker to buy a second-hand saxophone and soon left the group again looking for his own recording contract. Still playing sessions for Gallo Records, now on sax, Nkosi and friends began to explore a new "harder" sound, later to be called mbaqanga. Soon they were touring with bands put together by well-known producer Rupert Bopape. It was during one of these gigs that Nkosi hooked up with Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens who were dancing back-up to the music groups.

Nkosi went on to producer and manage groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens.

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