Share this article


Meet Jozi's Jazz Pioneer​​
Stompie Manana, Meadowlands resident and trumpeter still at 71​ Though he never made a living from it, Stompie Manana has spent more than ​50 years playing the trumpet, and was a founder member of the famous African Jazz Pioneers.

Top musician Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse describes Manana as "one of the most underrated and unheralded" trumpeters in the country.

At 71 he still plays the trumpet, an instrument both his father and brothers played, and is currently blowing sweet sounds at the Market Theatre in the musical Guga Mzimba, the spirit of Gerard Sekoto.

But Manana never made a living from his trumpet.

He was born in Sophiatown in 1935. Despite the poverty, overcrowding and gangsterism of the cosmopolitan Joburg suburb, Manana only has good memories of where he grew up. "We accepted what was happening, we had a togetherness, a unity. We were poor but happy."

Sophiatown residents forgot their troubles by going to the movies, he says. There were two cinemas in the suburb, the Odin and Balansky's, where he saw Fred Astaire movies. He loved the musicians in the movies and, by the age of 11, was taking piano lessons.

His father owned a restaurant in Sophiatown, the Wonder Bar. Customers could order pap and vleis, stampmielies with offal, and tea and coffee.

Memories of Huddleston

One of his enduring memories of Sophiatown was Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the Anglican anti-apartheid campaigner. Manana and his mates used to call him "Die Jerry".

Manana explains: "He was as tall as a German, so we gave him that name." Manana describes Huddleston as "a kind German".

In sharp contrast Manana is Stompie, which is Afrikaans for "stump", so named because he was born premature and was very small and frail. His parents gave him the names Ernest Erens, but he's never used them. He's grown to be a shorter-than-average man at 168cm (5ft 6in) but, as the last of eight children and the only surviving child, he's proved to be resilient.

When he was eight years old, Huddleston moved into the suburb, leaving in 1955 when Manana was 20.

He remembers painting two pictures for the priest when he left, which he left in the priory instead of taking them with him. "He could only give, he couldn't take - nobody could match him," says Manana now. He remembers

Manana describes Huddleston as his guardian, who helped him get painting lessons and a bursary for high school.

Huddleston kept an eye on him - whenever Manana didn't go to church the priest would come around to his home and find out where he was.

"He was a pillar of school and church," says Manana.

But it wasn't all just discipline - he has good memories of the churchman, a resident of the suburb for 12 years before he was recalled to England, when his church superiors felt he was probably on the brink of being arrested for his anti-apartheid pronouncements.

"He was philanthropic, unique, different thinking, he never saw a difference in people."

The champion

Manana remembers with much fondness when, at the age of 14, he entered a drawing competition run by The Bantu World newspaper. Suggested subjects were: Sunday afternoons; washing day; or a portrait. The first prize was a bicycle.

He created a picture of washing day and posted his entry. Unsure whether his entry had been received, he did another picture, this time a portrait. He submitted this one with a note explaining that he had sent this one as a back-up in case they hadn't received the first one. "I was not taking a chance," he says, desperate to win the bicycle.

He was called in to the newspaper's offices to see the paintings. "Are you Ernest?" said the editor. "Come and see the champion."

Manana recounts with an edge of excitement, now almost 60 years later: "He showed me all the paintings, and two paintings were mounted." Both of them were his - either would have won him the bicycle.

He wanted a Phillips 26, which was duly ordered for him. "I was the envy of all the children." Huddleston arranged an art teacher for him.

Musical career

Manana and his family were moved from Sophiatown to Meadowlands in the late 1950s, and he still lives there. One of his sons continues the musical tradition, and plays the trumpet.

In his 20s Manana moved from piano to trumpet, and has played it ever since. He says he's played in the African Jazz Pioneers, of which he was a founder member. "We started it so that we would have a band for our old age."

He remembers teaching Hugh Masekela to play the trumpet.

Manana started a band called The Cliffs and in 1974 they recorded an album. He says he has the master tapes of this record and could cut another album from them, if he wanted to.

But he was more than just a trumpeter. For 16 years he worked as a potter at Crescent Potteries in Krugersdorp. Then as a supervisor for Pilot radios and TVs. Then in a bank, working his way up to branch manager.

Though he's now retired from work, there's no retiring from the trumpet.
Meet Jozi's Jazz Pioneer​​