Introduction to South African Guitar Styles Vol. 1

Five Decades of Ukuvamba 1930s–1980s By Billy Monama

978-1-928341-62-8 A4; 182 pages


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    Introduction to South African Guitar Styles Vol. 1 is an exploration of the history of the guitar in Black South African popular music over five decades and the most important styles to have evolved around it: maskanda, African jazz, kwela, mbaqanga and XiTsonga. It is an accessible tutorial for those who can formally read music and those who play only by ear, and it contains online visuals for reference purposes.

    Biographies of the artists profiled and the historical background of each of the musical styles are provided. To add depth and perspective, guest artists were invited to address various aspects of the tutorials and provide demonstrations and interviews in videos that are available on All demonstrations are presented close-up in slow motion for learning purposes and also in their original faster tempos. Stave notation is also provided.


    1. Foreword by Dr Sello Galane
    2. Acknowledgments
    3. Music Symbols and
    4. Definitions for the Guitar
    5. Preface
    6. Introduction
    7. Chapter 1: Maskanda
    8. Chapter 2: African Jazz
    9. Chapter 3: Development of the Jazz Guitar
    10. Chapter 4: African Jazz Post-1960s
    11. Chapter 5: Kwela
    12. Chapter 6: Mbaqanga
    13. Chapter 7: XiTsonga
    14. Chapter 8: Conclusion
    15. Glossary
    16. Biography


    "Monama patiently presents his ground-breaking study of South African guitar styles through practical demonstrations of stylistic features and unique techniques that characterise our music over time. This documentation is rich and unique in its novelty and will enrich music education in South Africa and the world immensely."
    Dr Sello Galane
    Extraordinary Lecturer: Music Education University of Pretoria
    "In 1997, Billy got his hands on a borrowed acoustic six-string and never looked back. He was that rare thing, a natural, who could rapidly absorb informal instruction from grassroots musicians around him and from himself."
    Prof David Coplan
    Prof at University of the Witwatersrand
    "SA popular music is in your debt for undertaking this task and sticking with it for so long, during an extended period when nobody noticed what you were doing. Respect!"
    Gwen Ansell
    Jazz critic
    "This invaluable contribution to academia is a milestone to be celebrated"
    Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse
    South African singer
    "Not only does the book serve an important role as a how-to manual for aspiring performers, it does vital work in documenting and a transmitting historical knowledge and I know I will learn much from this book and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my students."
    Dr Chris Letcher
    Lecturer at University of Edinburgh
    "Billy is a new-generation South African guitar master, who’s book effectively bridges the gap between the informal and formal educations"
    Neil Gonsalves
    UKZN Director at Centre for Jazz and Popular Music
    "There are books on South African Music, especially Jazz, but nothing like this one. It has exceptional transcription of the musical styles with interviews, stories, and historical content. I look forward to seeing it in the Wits Library and having my own copy"
    Prof Carlo Mombelli
    Wits University
    "This book is multi-functional and multi-disciplinary. It encompasses not only musicology but also aspects of social science. I wish to highlight three main functions of this book: promoting informal learning and community learning, contributing to indigenous knowledge systems and enhancing existing tertiary music programmes."
    Dr Roland Moses
    Tshwane University of Technology

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    This book is published by Real African Publishers is an independent South African publisher committed to publishing the works of ordinary and extraordinary Africans from all over the continent who have great and
    inspiring stories to share with the world.