Dyer among Africa’s giants

Dyer blew his saxophone with the touch of an expert and sent crowds cheering with appreciation of such great skill. It was one of those rare Harare shows when Southern African music giants clash and thousands that forked out lots of money for entry into the show.

The great saxophonist joined Mtukudzi on stage for the song Tindike before the duo played a number of songs from the MAHUBE album Qhubeka.

Dyer then took the auditorium by storm when he played Thabiso among his other classics.

MAHUBE is a group comprising the region’s great musicians ‘ including Mtukudzi and Dyer ‘ that was formed in 1997. Their debut performance was in November 1997 at the “Out Of Afrika” Festival in Munich.

Dyer has, indeed, achieved a lot musically.

According to his recording company Sheer Sound’s website, the great saxophonist was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1960, and taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 11.

He studied music at the University of Natal where he obtained a degree in classical music in 1981 (first class).

Dyer left South Africa in 1982 for Botswana where he became involved in the “Culture and Resistance” symposium.

He played with Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela and Wilson “King Force” Silgee, and helped Gwangwa to form the band Shakawe.

It was during this period that Steve chose the saxophone and flute as his main instruments of expression. In 1986 Dyer left Botswana for Zimbabwe where he played with the late Jethro Shasha and the Jazz Survivors in Harare.

The next year, he went to the United Kingdom and played live shows and did studio work with various South African musicians, including Gwangwa and Philip Tabane.

He returned to Zimbabwe in 1988 and composed and performed the song Mudzimu for the BBC programme “Under African Skies” which was directed by Michael Raeburn.

Dyer became involved with Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu in the Buwa show, a musical based on the political situation in South Africa at the time. 1989 saw Steve’s debut release that coincided with the formation of his band of the same name Southern Freeway.

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Dyer among Africa’s giants

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Southern Freeway went on to perform in JIT, Zimbabwe’s first full length feature film which was also directed by Michael Raeburn. The soundtrack that was released later contained an additional two tracks by the band.

Apart from being involved with his band Steve toured Japan with Amandla the Cultural Ensemble of the ANC.

Two years after their debut release, Southern Freeway once again found themselves in the recording studio in a project that included songs sung in five different languages and was called “Indlela Yenkululeko”.

Their prominence as a band continued to grow as they performed in the acclaimed Independent TV series “Pole To Pole”, which was hosted by Micheal Palin which was screened in the programme “BBC Lifeschool” which was directed by Clive Cummings.

In 1992 Dyer returned to South Africa, but not before recording backtracks for World-Wide Television News for Philip Roberts Roving Report. His return to the land of his birth did not go unnoticed and was featured along with fellow musician and friend Jonas Gwangwa on Dali Tambo’s Night Moves show on M-NET.

In 1994, he appeared as a musician in Sisters Of Sync in Johannesburg, Grahamstown and Pretoria playing a wide range of music from classics modern African songs.

He also played and recorded with Denzil Weale in a jazz ensemble called Ethnic Dream. His talents however are not limited to that of musician having produced albums for Zimbabwean band Devera Ngwena Jazz Band, Zimbabwean legend Oliver Mtukudzi, for Tsonga artist Esta M’ debut album which went gold, the debut album for band Junuthu called Serontabole and produced a music documentary on Walter Sisulu which was directed by John Matshikiza.

In August 1995 Dyer composed, arranged and produced a radio campaign in all 11 official languages for the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Broadcasting to advertise their Green Paper. In the same year he conducted workshops on improvisation camps in Botswana.

In September 1996 he represented South Africa with his band Southern Freeway at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) music festival in Harare, Zimbabwe. Dyer composed, arranged and produced music for ‘Meerkats Divided’, a 30 minute follow up film to the acclaimed documentary ‘Meerkats United’ directed by Richard Goss. This programme featured in BBC 1’s ‘Wildlife on One’ series in April 1996, and was voted the most popular BBC documentary for 1996.

He was contracted by Boeing in the USA to record a promotional air flight game in all 11 official languages. In September he performed with Southern Freeway at Zoo lake as part of the Arts Alive programme and played to an audience of 30 000 people.

In 1997 he composed the soundtrack for a 30 minute dance, ‘Passage of Rites’ choreographed by Sylvia Glasser of the Moving Into Dance Company. He conducted a t day training course for the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism to familiarise students from throughout the country on production and engineering techniques as pertaining to radio work. He was contracted as musical director of the Soweto String Quartet a show which toured extensively both locally and abroad.

In January 1998 he produced a radio campaign for the department of Health on the issue on HIV, AIDS and S.T.D’s once again in all 11. He also produced a radio campaign for the department of Land Affairs on the issue of land reform.

In September 2000 Steve Dyer completed work on his own solo offering “Down South in Africa”, which was licensed by Sheer Sound from Dyer’s Ikwezi Music label for local release. The album features 12 outstanding tracks, some resembling the big band sound of Mahube, whilst others demonstrating Dyer’s adebt ability on both Flute and Saxophones, and that he has developed an African sound that he can call his own. Look out for the tracks “Inkosi Yinkosi Ngabantu”, “Umkumbane”, the laid back “Bontleng” featuring Paul Hanmer, and the afro-pop deep groove of “Ancestral Home”.

The next solo album “SON OF THE SOIL”, again licensed from Dyer’s Ikwezi Music label, by Sheer Sound, will be released 5 April 2002, and launched at the Civic Theatre, forming part of a showcase called “Crossing the Limpopo”.

The album features Paul Hanmer, Sam Mataure, Themba Mkhize, Denzil Weale, Denny Lalouette, Marc Duby, Jimmy Mgwandi, Isaac Mtshali, Bongani Masuku and Sipho Nxumale.

Dyer has released other albums that have kept his name on the top list of jazz musicians in the region and his recent performance in Harare will remain etched in the minds of music lovers for a long time.

The way he clicked with Mtukudzi shows how great talents can match to produce even greater products.

October 2006
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