Mike Makhalemele
Mind Games

Album cover


  1. Mind Games (John Lennon) [16.08]
  2. Mother (John Lennon) [3.55]
  3. Imagine (John Lennon) [10.38]

Produced by Trevor Rabin and Patric van Blerk
Arranged by Trevor Rabin
Recorded at Satbel Studios, Johannesburg, 1976


  • Mike Makhalemele: sax
  • Trevor Rabin (from Rabbitt): guitars, bass, keyboards
  • Ronnie Robot (from Rabbitt): bass
  • Neil Cloud (from Rabbitt): drums

  • Strings: Pro-Arte led by Bram Verhoef

Release information:

1990, PVB, PVBC 6 (Cassette ZPVC 6)


SA Rock Digest Issue #57, 14th May 2000
Bra' Mike, as he was known to his many friends and countless admirers, passed away last weekend at his home in Meadowlands after a short illness. Although this ebullient and extremely talented jazz saxophonist had released a string of exceptional albums over the past 20 years, he never quite achieved the South African and international respect and acclaim he, and many devoted fans, felt he so rightly deserved. Makhalemele himself pointed this out in his atypical acceptance speech at the SAMA awards a few years ago, when he received a very belated award/tribute and spoke quite openly of his disappointment at the lack of recognition his music had received. This was neither an arrogant outburst, nor a mean swipe at the organizers or industry. It was simply a fact, delivered honestly and with the intention of waking up those who have the power to harness the tremendous and often forgotten talent in our country. That was Mike Makhalemele, a man for whom the music was everything, and the rewards incidental. His perceived lack of recognition did not stop this Alexandra Township-born musician from creating a body of work that stands testimony to his love for his country and the music that pours out of it.

Back in those Alexandra days, Mike discovered that his neighbour, Zakes Nkosi, was one of SA's finest musicians. That, coupled with the influence of the American jazz albums circulating through the township, was the spur that set Mike on his musical path. He joined the group Drive in the '70's, alongside Khaya Mahlangu and Duke Makasi, and recorded the first of many solo albums - 'Peacemaker', 'Walking Spirit', and 'Peaceful Eyes' - during that time. On 'Walking Spirit' he added his title track composition to sensitive versions of Grover Washington's 'Sea Lion', Bob James' 'Soar Like An Eagle', and Herbie Hancock's 'Butterfly'. He also backed a host of international jazz musicians when they toured SA, among them Curtis Mayfield, Champion Jack Dupree, and Joe Henderson. He received offers to visit the US and work with Chick Corea and Joe Henderson, but his heart was in South Africa and he preferred to remain and work with the music and musicians he loved.

Makhalemele played, uncredited, on Paul Simon's 'Graceland' album, before recording his 1990 album 'Thabang' which was rapturously received, and which included one of his most famous compositions, 'Soweto Dawn'. This album was given a worldwide release by Atlantic Jazz in 1992. 'Soweto Dawn' has been dubbed "Soweto's Manenberg", in tribute and comparison to the Dollar Brand's Cape anthem. 1998 saw the release of 'Searching', his tribute album to the music and musicians of South Africa. 'Freedom Dance' was dedicated to President Mandela and his unique dancing that symbolizes his spirit of peace and freedom. Other songs were dedicated to Henry Sithole, who co-formed Mike's first band The Drive in the '70s, pianist Shakes Mngudlwa, Arthur Habedi, who ran the famous Jo'burg jazz club Kippie's, and the legendary Mckay Davashe. All Makhalemele's influences shine through on 'Searching', from Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker to John Coltrane and Joe Henderson (with whom Mike played in 1981). But overall it is the great SA jazz saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi whose spirit hovered the strongest over 'Searching'. No surprise there as Mike portrayed Kippie in a stage production at the Civic Theatre in Jo'burg in 1998. Mike also covered Strike Vilikazi's 'Meadowlands', and contributed five of his own pieces to an evocative and sparkling album that will stand as his fitting swansong.

But there is another (vinyl only) album by Bra' Mike that is worth searching out. It is called 'Mind Games - A Jazz Celebration Of John Lennon', and has on its cover, a photograph of John Lennon with his arm around an un-named South African, posing in front of Table Mountain. The album was produced by Trevor Rabin and Patric van Blerk, and finds Mike performing his own interpretations of three of the ex-Beatle's solo numbers - 'Mind Games', 'Mother', and 'Imagine' - accompanied by Trevor Rabin, Ronnie Robot, and Neil Cloud from Rabbitt.

Ratau Mike Makhalemele was 58 years old and is survived by his wife, four children, and five grandchildren. Our condolences to his family which includes his daughter, the AIDS activist Mercy Makhalemele, and his niece, the former Miss South Africa and current TV personality, Basetsane Makhalemele. What remains is his legacy of devotion to South African music, his wide range of friends and fans, and his impressive catalogue of stirring SA jazz albums featuring his unmistakably languid and emotional sax playing. To quote Bra' Mike, from the sleeve of the 'Searching' CD: "My mission is to the music, it's as simple as that."

All info supplied by Stephen Segerman, May 2000.

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