Tuesday 3 May 2011

Obituary: Ernest "Shololo" Mothle

Ernie playing at a gig in memory of Winston Mankunku Ngozi in Novemer 2009.

Ernest Mothle was born on 2 December 1941 in Lady Selborne, Tshwane where he attended school, listening to the music that was happening all around him in that bustling township.
After briefly dreaming of playing the clarinet or the sax, he took up the bass and began playing with various musicians active in the Tshwane area.
By 1962 he was an accomplished jazz musician performing with the likes of Alf Herbert's African Jazz and Variety; Early Mabuza's Big Five with Barney Rachabane, Johnny Mekoa, Tete Mbambisa and Pat Matshikiza, the late great sax player Winston Mankunku Ngozi, and singers like Abigail Khubeka, Thandi Klaasen and Busi Mhlongo.
In 1970 he was involved in recording the great album Armitage Road with the Heshoo Beshoo group. He also co-wrote music for the musical Phiri and for the first film version of Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena.
Mr Mothle then left for the United Kingdom where he joined the many other exiled South African musicians like Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Julian Bahula and many others, eventually joining Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath big band with which he toured Europe.
While in the UK Mr Mothle also played with a number of other jazz greats like Errol Clark, Sonny Stitt, Archie Shepp and he toured with blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon, sax men Courtney Pine and Trevor Watts and the band Spirit Level.
Mr Mothle participated in a BBC TV recording of music for children. He played with the band of Alton Khumalo's Themba Theatre Company when they toured Britain. He was also a member of the orchestra for the Bill Luther Dance Company (Luther was a student of Martha Graham)
Ernest in front of the nursing home in the former Lady Selborne township in which he was born.
Mr Mothle appeared on TV with the Jonas Gwangwa at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Concert at Wembley Stadium, in Dr Who and Halfway to Paradise with Courtney Pine.
On his return to South Africa in 1991 Mr Mothle played with visiting musicians Rene McLean, Jon Yon Yen, James Newton, Bob Mintzer and Jasper van't Hof.
He worked as a bass instructor at the Mmabana Cultural Centre and tutored at the Tshwane University of Technology's Music Department.
He has an impressive list of recordings bearing his name as sideman – with musicians as varied as Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield (Mr Mothle played percussion on Oldfield's album Ommadawn), George Lee and Mike Osborne.
He played on the soundtrack of David Attenborough's movie Cry Freedom with Jonas Gwangwa and appeared at the first Nelson Mandela birthday concert at Wembly Stadium with Hugh Masekela.
Ernest died of diabetes-related complications on 2 May 2011 at his home in Mamelodi, Pretoria.