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About Phuzekhemisi

When Trevor Payne, the Barbados-born founder and director of the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir, heard the singing of South African vocalist and songwriter Phuzekhemisi (born Johnston Zibakwakhe Mnyandu), he was so impressed that he immediately envisioned a collaboration between his choir and Phuzekhemisi and his group. Their joint performance at St. James United Church in Montreal was recorded and released as Jubilation VII: Hamba Ekhaya. Phuzekhemisi was no stranger to music. As John Bhengu, he had built his reputation as a finger style acoustic guitarist in the streets of Durban, Johannesburg, during the 1950s. Switching to the electric guitar and assuming his current name in the late '60s, he continued to pioneer the Zulu-traditional music known as maskandi. A native of the small South African village of Maskanda, Phuzekhemisi launched his musical career shortly after relocating to Johannesburg. After building a following as a street musician, he was taken under the wing of Welcome Bhodloza Nzimande, station manager of Ukhozi FM (formerly Radio Zulu). With Nzimande's encouragement, he was able to secure a recording contract in the early '60s. His debut album, Imbizio, which combined traditional maskandi and township jive, sold more than 100,000 copies and qualified for double-platinum status. ~ Craig Harris