Obituary – From a friend
Victor Ntoni and I were the same age and special circumstances brought us together. My father (jazz legend and hall of famer, Dave), brothers (Chris and Dan) and I came to South Africa in 1976 after the Soweto Uprising and just on the brink of the Cultural Boycott.
This meant we cancelled some concerts for insisting on “separate” audiences and some venues cancelled on us.
Ntoni was the guest bass player with The New Brubeck Quartet as the family group was called, and we all bonded immediately as musicians and friends.
We had many adventures in South Africa and Botswana.
My parents thought of Ntoni as another son and we were happy to assist with his studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, US, where he studied composition.
Ntoni referred to my parents as Papa Dave and Mama Iola.
When I came to teach at the then University of Natal, Victor and I formed Afro Cool Concept, which also featured Lulu Gontsana on drums.
We toured extensively, notably with Barney Rachabane in New Orleans and New York, and earlier in Swaziland and Zimbabwe with Duke Makasi.
There, we met with the ANC in exile and endlessly discussed the role of music in the “struggle”, and in the much-anticipated new South Africa.
I saw first-hand that, rather than being awed by articulate revolutionaries, Ntoni “socked it to” them for undervaluing the role of people back home.
He was a good storyteller, one of the best I have ever known, and we were captivated by that low, resonant voice, and his tales of rural and urban life.
I remember having lunch at The Market Theatre with him and great director Barney Simon. “See these grey hairs,” said Barney, “each one is called Victor Ntoni.”
He was multitalented, creative and one of a kind.
As I’m certain other tributes make clear, he contributed hugely to the realms of jazz, theatre, broadcasting, personal mentoring and just by being Bra Vic.
This was the hip persona we all admired.
Musically, he was in touch with the deepest underground streams of tradition, yet also the nearest thing to a Quincy Jones-type figure that South Africa has produced.
I do feel my world has suddenly changed and it’s not a good feeling.
» Brubeck is an award-winning, and respected jazz musician and educator