Lulu Gontsana

Exceptional Jazz Drummer

Lulu Gontsana in the early 2000's.

Lulama Lulu Junior Gontsana was a distinguished drummer and jazz musician who hailed from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. He was renowned for his world-class musical talent and the instrumental role he played in advancing South African jazz. Gontsana’s artistry knew no bounds - he had an infectious creativity that flowed through his spirited performances.

His expressive drumming brought regular jazz songs alive, highlighting his immense talent. He was a true master of African rhythms, blending classical jazz and local flavour seamlessly.

Gontsana was born in 1960 in the Eastern Cape and came from a musical family - both his grandfather and father were musicians in Port Elizabeth. He was thus exposed to a variety of music from a young age. In the 1980’s, he moved to Johannesburg to broaden his musical horizons.

There he played under musicians George Tshefumani and Duke Makazi. Gontsana was offered a scholarship to study jazz at the University of Natal, where he joined the university band called the Jazzanians. He performed alongside local jazz legends such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Barney Rachabane, Victor Ntoni and Miriam Makeba.

He also became jazz icon Hugh Masekela's drummer of choice. Internationally, he performed with American jazz keyboardist Darius Brubeck and hosted jazz workshops in America, which demonstrated his devotion to exposing the world to South African jazz. Gontsana collaborated extensively with international musicians Jack van Poll and Dave Young.

Their album called ‘We Three’ was released 2011, which featured classic yet vibrant jazz songs that delighted fans worldwide. Gontsana was seen as one of the top jazz performers of South Africa.

He viewed music as a form of communication and tool through which to connect to people. He saw jazz as more than a style of music - he saw it as a way of life. His untimely death in 2005 left a huge void in the South African jazz fraternity.

By Kwezi Kobus & Carla Lottering