By Staff Reporters

The death of Gloria Nosikhumbuzo Ntombikayise Bosman, one of South Africa’s most famed and beloved musicians, was untimely for more reasons than her relative youth (she was 50). Her voice was pregnant with a plentiful amount of emotion and character, in addition to her outstanding material.

She was one of our country’s most influential jazz musicians who still had a lot to offer. “In the short period that Ms Bosman was a member of the Board, she added a perspective that comprised of a rich blend of insights on members aspirations, as well as the direction that our organisation should continue to march towards,” SAMRO chairperson Nicholas Maweni said in his tribute to Gloria.

When icons pass away, it is customary to remember them for their achievements rather than the gift of who they were as people. Their greatness is assessed more by the prestige of their accomplishments and public standing and less by how their very presence affected the lives of others around them because of an unconscious belief that their work defined who they were.

Despite the fact that this might be appropriate and, in some cases, necessary, a person’s
passing should also widen the scope of memory. The sense of finality provides an opportunity for more in-depth reflection, during which the main focus should also be on a person’s character—who they really were in relation to their immediate community.

Rooted in love and discipline Veteran radio broadcaster and jazz aficionado Brenda Sisane who had a strong bond with Gloria captured it beautifully when she remarked: “Gloria never betrayed love.” “I won’t claim that Gloria and I spoke on the phone a lot, but I can categorically state that whenever she spoke I heard because she spoke with such great vibration. Gloria was a mother, grandmother, daughter, historian, composer, sister, and friend; she embodied such great characters of elegance and panache.

“She just had a natural wit about her, but she could also write lyrically about spirituality. She could write in the vernacular, in very deep syntax, and just express that she was brought up in a family of depth and identity. “She was an intellectual. And the most beautiful thing about Gloria was her ability for reinvention. She could change her look and go bald-headed at a drop of a hat and one day she will be this lady wearing heels. She was so beautiful doing it.”

Nothemba Madumo, a radio broadcaster and close friend, described Gloria’s death as traumatising because it was so sudden. “It’s very scary because it was short, all of a sudden it was unexpected, it’s very sad and traumatizing. Also, at such a young age when she still had so much to give with all that she has given. Not only with her talent and music but also as a person, how vibey she was. How she was always laughing and everything for her was a joy to do, a joy to share. She was a very generous, beautifully spirited human being.” “She was strong and still vulnerable. She was a teacher, lover, and mentor. All my moments with Gloria over the years were glorious which is why I called her Glorious.” She had a warm, wonderful voice with a strong sense of rhythm.

She was a talented writer, composer, and instructor who was also one of the most adored by her admirers both locally and abroad because she was simply the best lady to sing jazz or any other genre of music.
She utilised her voice like a musical instrument, hitting a range of notes from low to pure, glassy highs, according to musicians who worked with her. Legendary musician, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, to whom Gloria was like a younger sister, paid glowing tribute to the late musician’s exceptional talent. “I used to run a club called Kippies at the Market Theater and I remember one of her first performances, she was barefooted, and she wore a black dress.

“I remember vividly, she sauntered, she cajoled, her voice soaring like an angel, rising to the skies…Kippies was heavenly in the night…the night was glorious. “Who is she? Gloria is her name. Her glorious voice, she sauntered sideways, she mesmerised, the audience acknowledged, she was indeed glorious,” said Mabuse. In an opinion piece on Qondile Khedama wrote: “Highly respected amongst her peers because of the effort she put into her craft, most entertainment journalists described Bosman’s performances as polished, well thought of, and with distinctive creative flair. “Fans and critics alike embraced her stage presence and charm, her brash sense of humour, and her distinctively soulful and jazzy vocals – something that distinguished her from almost all newly-minted jazz singers of the early 2000s. She also had a canny ability to set the stage ablaze with her dance moves such as the kwasa-kwasa.

“Bosman was known for her deep, expressive vocals, and as an African lyricist. Amaqwathi – one of her most liked songs is a song that invokes emotions and pride amongst the Amaqwathi clan, of which I am part. This song has become a part of the clan’s social events, played for recreation, cultural or traditional activities, and across generations, further proving that in Africa, music isn’t just something we associate with fun, but it’s entrenched in our everyday lives.”

Similar to one of her musical heroes, the talented American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), Gloria had a warm and lovely voice with notable rhythmic sense, versatility, and intonation, as well as an exceptional talent for scat singing. Gloria, like Ella, had a remarkable talent for creating melodic lines while singing, placing her in the company of great musicians and instrumental improvisers. She established a legacy of acclaimed performances and a renowned body of work during a career that began in earnest with the release of her debut album, Tranquillity, in 1999.

“My dad loved playing Ella Fitzgerald and that was my first encounter with jazz music… and already in church, we were toying around with Aretha Franklin the old negro spirituals that were a combination of African sounds and western musical culture. My dad was a real jazz lover from Sophiatown and unconsciously I was learning jazz. I didn’t even know I was going to end up singing jazz. I was just listening; it was a sound that I couldn’t ignore,” she told Paul Mnisi of House Of Sankofa on The Hustlers Corner.

A true Soweto girl, she told Paul that she was concentrating more on imparting her musical knowledge to the next generation of artists as a way to give back and maintain the art of music. “I want to leave knowing I sang with everyone and kept the music alive. What matters to me is how I’m going to give back to the music community as a mentor.” Those who had the chance to slake their musical thirst in Gloria’s well of knowledge must make sure that her legacy endures.

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