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Don Laka is a South African musician and producer. Born in 1958 in Mamelodi, Pretoria, he formed his first band in 1969 and made his first recording in 1972. After passing matric in 1978 he started formal music lessons, obtaining his licentiate in high school music teaching in 1979. From 1980 to 1981 he joined the influential Afro-fusion group Sakhile, that was formed by Sipho Gumede and Khaya Mahlangu.
Don later formed his own band with Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala, called ‘Image’ (or Ymage). The group lasted for 10 years, releasing numerous albums. During the same period Don ventured into recording solo albums (like ‘I Wanna Be Myself’ in 1984) and producing other artists. In 1990 he started writing orchestral arrangements for Sibongile Khumalo, who performed with the National Symphony Orchestra. He has produced and arranged for the likes of Sankomota, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Rebecca Malope, Ray Phiri, Sipho Mabuse, Mango Groove, Sharon Dee and Johnny Clegg.
In the 1990s Don started a record company together with a friend Oscar Mdlongwa (Oskido) called Kalawa Records (later known as Kalawa Jazmee), one of the first successful black-owned record company in South Africa, releasing many of the era’s top kwaito stars. As a solo artist he successfully fused kwaito and jazz, calling it ‘kwai-jazz’. He currently runs his own label, Bokone Music. His most recent albums are ‘Portraits’ (2014) and ‘Afro Chopin’ (2015).
Don is also a vocal advocate for increasing local content on radio and TV, an issue he has been promoting for much of the past two decades.
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