Johnny Dyani

Johnny Mbizo Dyani (Nov. 30, 1945 — Oct. 24, 1986) was a South African double-bassist who emerged as one of the founding members of Cape Town jazz heroes the Blue Notes, in which he played alongside saxist Dudu Pukwana, drummer Louis Moholo, and trumpeter Mongezi Feza.

Just as the Blue Notes began making waves in Europe, Dyani departed in 1966 to tour Argentina with American saxist Steve Lacy. The following year, Dyani and Moholo played alongside Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava on Lacy’s The Forest and the Zoo album. Over the next five years, Dyani also appeared on albums by Al Shorter, Don Cherry, John Stevens, and former band-mate Chris McGregor.

In 1972, Dyani and Feza formed a surname-sake free-jazz trio with Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz. Their album, Music for Xaba, Vol. I, was issued the following year on Sonet. A second volume would appear in 1979, four years after Feza’s passing, which sparked the Blue Notes 1976 reunion album Blue Notes for Mongezi.

Dyani and Temiz recorded one further album, Witchdoctor’s Son, in 1976. That same title would also be used for Dyani’s first solo album, recorded with Pukwana and Danish saxist John Tchicai and released in 1978 on SteepleChase. That same year, he played in Moholo’s eponymous octet for the album Spirits Rejoice! The late ’70s also found the bassist’s name on albums by Dave Murray, Dollar Brand, Joe Bonner and Phillip Wilson.

In 1979, Dyani released his most popular album, Song for Biko, with a newly formed quartet comprised of Cherry, Pukwana, and drummer Makaya Ntshoko. A string of further solo and collaborative efforts would follow into the mid-1980s, which also found Dyani behind U.S. vibist Khan Jamal and beside Nowegian saxist Frode Gjerstad in the free-jazz trio Detail.

In October 1986, Dyani died shortly after a performance in West Berlin. His passing inspired a second Blue Notes reunion album, Blue Notes for Johnny. In 1988, a vaulted 1972 Dyani Temiz Feza recording session was issued as Rejoice on Cadillac Records.


  • Music for Xaba, Vol. I (1973 • Dyani Temiz Feza)
  • Witchdoctor’s Son (1976 • Okay Temiz / Johnny Dyani)
  • Witchdoctor’s Son (1978)
  • Echoes From Africa (1979 • Dollar Brand & Johnny Dyani)
  • Music for Xaba, Volume Two (1979 • Dyani Temiz Feza)
  • Song for Biko (1979 • Johnny Dyani Quartet)
  • African Bass (1980 • Johnny M. Dyani)
  • Grandmother’s Teaching (1982)
  • Mbizo (1982 • Johnny Dyani Quartet)
  • Suburban Fantasies (1983 • Joe Bonner & Johnny Dyani)
  • Afrika (1984)
  • Born Under the Heat (1984)
  • Angolian Cry (1985 • Johnny Dyani Quartet)
  • Three (1985 • Khan Jamal, Johnny Dyani & Pierre Dørge)
  • Witchdoctor’s Son ‘Together’ (1987 • Johnny Mbizo Dyani)
  • Rejoice (1988, recorded 1972 • Johnny Dyani, Mongezi Feza & Okay Temiz)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *