Saxophone tenor & soprano, composer, 1961 Tembisa South Africa.
FROM the humble beginnings of performing around Johannesburg flea markets to gracing world’s renowned jazz venues, saxophonist Sydney Ace Mnisi represents a class of accomplished South African artist.
With a career stretching over two decades, the Edenvale-Tembisa born muso could easily be described as being at his peak. He has teamed up with some of the big names in the industry, occasionally stepping out of his comfort zone to demonstrate his versatility.
The success that he has enjoyed with various bands, including his feature in 1998 ensemble with the Dutch-born Paul van Kemenade, recording the albums ‘Zvinoshamisa ‘ (1999), and ‘Mexicosy’(2006), that brought him wide acclaim here and abroad.
His tours have taken him to dozens of prominent jazz joints in Europe including the renowned London’s’ Ronnie Scott’s’, ‘Fasching’ in Goteborg, Sweden , ‘Bim Huis’ in Amsterdam , ‘ Bird’s Eye’ in Switzerland and other exclusive venues in France, Germany and Belgium, to name a few.
Despite his achievements, the saxophonist has a “lot more to share” — a statement that is evident in his past work, which features an array of local greats like pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku ,Jonas Gwangwa ,etc.
His 2008 album:’ 20 Years Celebration’, speaks to his rich influences in his years in the industry, fusing African jazz tunes and captivating sax solos.
He refers to the self-funded- project as “work of passion” which pays homage to his township roots.
A former 2nd division footballer, whose musical talent was almost lost to the sport, Mnisi’s rise to prominence, reflects his impeccable dedication to his craft. The tenor saxophonist started his career in 1988, at a ripe age of 28, after taking a “risky” decision to quit his fulltime job as a mechanical fitter and turner .
Not in a rush to hit the big times or solely relying on his talent, the married father of two went to school to hone his musical skills. It’s a decision he says was not warmly received by his family.
With hindsight, the move could easily be likened to a spiritual calling he couldn’t resist, something arguably similar to a passage undergone by traditional healers before they could lay claim to their powers.
He then enrolled for 2 years at Johannesburg-based FUBA School of Arts for a music course.
But his hunger for knowledge saw him go to Pretoria Technikon to further his studies, graduating in 1992 with a Diploma in Music.
His first big break followed in the same year, when he joined the now defunct pop band called ‘ Slam Factory’, which toured several neighbouring countries. He moved on to co- establish a five-member group called ‘ Voice’, featuring : Andile Yenana,Marcus Wyatt ,Herbie Tsoaeli and Morabo Morejele.
The band which is still around produced two albums,’Quintet legacy vol 1’ and ‘Songs for our grandchildren’
Now sought after session , freelance musician, Mnisi has lent his skills to the ‘SOUTH AFRICAN IDOLS ‘ music show, ‘ STRICTLY COME DANCING ‘a dance show live on tv,the new generations theme song ,etc , backing bands, the likes of ‘Stimela’, ‘TKZ’,’Dr Victor and the Rasta Rebels’, ‘Music Ye Afrika’,etc
He credits his early exposure to music to his family, growing up in a home with music loving parents who often hosted stokvel parties.
But it’s the late Zakes Nkosi, the late Mike ‘Ratau’ Makgalemeli and the late Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi , Sonny Rollins and the late John Coltrane who ignited his love for the saxophone.
He has no immediate plans of slowing down,