Jonas Mosa Gwangwa was born in 1941 in Orlando East, Soweto. The young Gwanga was one of many musicians mentored by Alto Saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi. He then joined the 1950’s band The Epistles as a trombonist. The band helped him gain some recognition. Sadly, it disbanded in 1959. Gwangwa then went on to become a composer of note and became the first black South African to release an album.
Gwangwa gained popularity in the US when he was featured in the Sound of Africa concert. Two years later he returned for The Main Event, a tour that also featured saxophonist, Hugh Masekela. South Africa’s political environment in the 1960s would eventually force Gwangwa to relocate to the US, where he would spend the next fifteen years. He went to the US after completing a European tour with the famous King Kong production that also featured Miriam Makeba. He soon enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music.
Gwangwa spent ten years as musical director of the African National Congress’s (ANC) ensemble tour Amandla. In 1987 Gwangwa produced the musical score for Richard Attenborough film, Cry Freedom. The film was nominated for several awards, including an Oscar and a Grammy. i It received the Ivor Bovello and Black Emmy awards. Gwanga came back to South Africa in 1991 and continued to produce great works as a composer and a trombonist. As a composer, he produced theme songs and sountracks for shows such as the soap Generations and the movie Othello. He has won numerous awards his music throughout his career.