Wiltshire Publications

Musician honoured by South Africa

A JAZZ musician and music promoter, who co-promoted the first Mandela Birthday Concert in 1983 as well as using much of his career to help the anti-apartheid cause, has returned to Westbury after being presented with the Order of Ikhamanga by the South African president.

Julian Bahula, who has lived in Westbury for four years, was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (gold) in the country’s National Orders this year. The Order recognises his “exceptional contribution… and achievement” in music and the arts and the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa. It also honours him as an “excellent ambassador of South African music” whilst commending his contribution to the development of music in South Africa as well as African culture around the world.

Julian has used much of his successful musical career to work with anti-apartheid movements, travelling widely to raise funds and awareness, in particular for the African National Congress (ANC). Julian travelled to South Africa to receive his award from President Jacob Zuma at a special ceremony on Freedom Day. He said, “For me, I’m very happy to have this honour now, on Freedom Day, and in the centenary year of ANC. It is a landmark for me – my autobiography will end with this. And to be honoured at the same time as a former leader of the ANC – he was honoured also this year.”

Julian was particularly honoured to receive the order alongside awards to campaigners with prominent roles in the fight for a free democratic South Africa, which included Oliver Tambo and Edward M Kennedy.

Julian rose to fame as a musician in his native South Africa in the 1960s as a founder member of the Malombo Jazz Men. Malombo music is considered as a indigenous type of jazz, close to the spirit of the ancestors, and Julian achieved a reputation as a drummer. But in 1973, with the politics of apartheid impacting both life and music making, he came to Britain. In Europe, he formed the band Jabula, and while touring he worked with the African National Congress and the anti-apartheid movements, to raise funds and awareness for the struggle. The first Mandela Birthday Concert, held at Alexandra Palace in 1983, was Julian’s brainchild.

Julian was based in London for many years, but after an life-changing accident decided to move out of this city. He explains, “The accident changed my life altogether Wherever you live in London you’ve got stairs and noise and crowds. After I recovered, I was in a flat on the third floor and after another hip replacement I couldn’t live there. We moved here, and I love it so much here. Since living in Westbury, I don’t think I would live in a city again. Here in Westbury the people are lovely.” Julian is now working on a new album and his autobiography from his home in Westbury.