Self taught jazz maestro dies

Roy Sokuyeka

Trumpeter Roy Sokuyeka Roode, one of the jazz doyens in Nyanga, died on Saturday.

According to his son, Steven Sokuyeka – a jazz trombonist, his father died after a very short illness. Famously known as Bra Roy , he was born in Grahamstown, where he started listening to jazz blarring from the neighbours speakers. A self-taught musician, Bra Roy started playing all sorts of sounds from American to South African amarabi.

While staying in Grahamstown, he befriended members of Diamond Black mbaqanga band. He picked up the trumpet by chance. At a time of coming of age, when he had just come back from being circumcised, as in African culture of “ukusoka”, there was a traditional celebration for his return welcoming him to manhood.

Young and old men, as well as children, had gathered to drink, eat meat and present the young man with gifts, and Bra Roy was presented with a trumpet.

At the time he could not even play a note. He soon started to teach himself, blowing awkwardly, and sometimes he was taught by one of the older musicians from Diamond Black. But there was little time. The band was always on the road. He was left on his own.

Because jazz was his first love, he travelled to PE, where he joined the Soul Jazz Man band. It is there that he started playing jazz standards, and improvising on the trumpet. In 1964, he moved to Cape Town to stay with his extended family.

A year later, he joined the Quiz-Quiz Jazz Band. The band performed in community halls on the Cape flats. Jazz did not limit his playing skills, and Bra Roy became part of the brass band at the annual The Kaapse Klopse festival in the 1980s.

He later joined the Touch, a Gugs jazz band where he met the likes of McCoy Mrubata, Ezra Ngcukane, Willie Nettie, Max Diamond, Rodger Khoza and Robert Sithole.

He leaves behind his wife, his son and four daughters. His funeral will take place in Nyanga, on SaturdayMay 18. For more info call 079 530 2264.