Timelessness part 1: Bheki Mseleku remembered

Around 2005 I received a call from my closest friend Bheki Mseleku. I was saddened to hear that he had had enough of our home country South Africa, where he had lost his Steinway upright piano through some bad deal. Coupled with this, his health and his tolerance of an unsympathetic music industry had deteriorated to a point of desperation.

I immediately made arrangements to fly him back to London with the help of Kamal El Alaoui to support him in resurrecting his flagging career. Driving home from Heathrow airport I promised to get him access to the pianos at Henry Wood Hall in London so that he could get his chops back. The manager of the space Andy Stevens, who had witnessed Bheki’s brilliance during our tour of South Africa with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1995, was quick to say he would do anything within his powers to help him as Bheki had given so much to all of us through his breathtaking performances.

It was unbelievable to witness the master overcome the pain in his hands in the shortest time imaginable! Then, with Reg Hendrickse’s help, I called the English flautist Gareth Lockrane to join Bheki with a view to learning his tunes towards putting together an ensemble with which they could gig around the UK.

After an initial improvisatory warm up navigating some chord sequences, Bheki asked Gareth which of his tunes he had checked out that he would like to play. Gareth instantly said, “What about Timelessness?!” – to which Bheki smiled and exclaimed, “Timelessness? Yeah, I haven’t played it for a long time, but yeah…”

At the end of a scintillating few minutes of exchanging solos on this challenging piece Bheki said, “Yeah man, we should play…”Mseleku

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