Bheki Mseleku: Towards a Biography
South African jazz pianist Bheki Mseleku is well-known among musicians and committed jazz followers. Yet relatively little is written about him in academic literature, except for brief mentions in two general historiographies of South African jazz, namely In Township Tonight! (Coplan 2007) and Soweto Blues (Ansell 2007). In response to this gap, this article constructs Mseleku’s biography, intended as a foundational text for future research to build on. It traces his journey from South Africa, where he was born and started performing as a pianist, to his exile in London, where he launched his solo career. Given the dearth of scholarly literature on Mseleku, the article draws mainly on a collection of primary source materials in the public domain such as obituaries and articles in the general press, which provide glimpses of particular moments in his career, as well as interviews and documentary film footage. I advocate for more scholarship on various aspects of Bheki Mseleku’s life and works, such as his spirituality, multi-instrumentalism, approaches to pedagogy, and further reflections on his contribution to South African jazz aesthetics and analysis
of his compositions and arrangements. The article also includes a discography of Mseleku’s albums, as well as a selection of albums on which he features as a sideman.