b. 17 April 1973, Tembia, Johannesburg, South Africa, d. 13 February 2001, Johannesburg, South Africa. Molelekwa’s father and grandfather were musicians and he grew up to the recorded jazz sounds of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. His first musical ventures were on guitar, then keyboards, before formal, but necessarily part-time studies on piano at the Federated Union of Black Arts Academy. By the time of his graduation, in 1987, he had established a local reputation as an accompanist for visiting artists who included Miriam Makeba. The following year, he became a member of Hugh Masekela’s band. The late 80s and early 90s found him touring internationally, sometimes as sideman and other times as leader of the award-winning bands, Brotherhood and Umbongo. In addition to performing music in clubs and concerts, he also played in theatre orchestras and on film soundtracks. His 1995 debut album won two awards and was received in Europe with critical acclaim. His follow-up album featured guests including Flora Purim and Chucho Valdés and he again won awards and favourable reactions. Molelekwa toured the UK and Europe, appearing at prestigious venues and events including the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England, and the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands. Genes And Spirits, in both CD and video form, began to make a mark in the USA and Molelekwa was very active not only with a third album, Wa Mpona, but also as a producer of artists such as the singer Sibongile Khumalo and the commercially popular kwaito group, TKZee.
Hailed as a successor to the music and spirit of South African jazz stars such as Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim, his future looked assured. He was, however, beset by personal problems. He and his wife, Florence, who was also his manager, were reportedly at odds with one another, and despite the fact that they had a small son, their marriage in disarray. In February 2001, their bodies were discovered in their office; he was hanging from a beam next to his wife’s body who was believed to have been strangled. Molelekwa’s music reflected his all-embracing tastes, including hard bop, funk, R&B, hip-hop, straight ahead jazz, and the music of his homeland. To it all, he brought his own artistic sensibilities and an astute awareness of the commercial needs of the jazz marketplace.