Photo provided by family

Bandleader, guitarist and composer Baba Simon Serokeng Mokoena was born on 25 April 1944 in uMkhumbane, KwaZulu-Natal. Serokeng was the first name of his father, a businessman who owned general dealer shops with the popular logo MK, i.e. Mokoena General Dealer. Around 1957, Mokoena moved to KwaMashu due to riots in uMkhumbane, which is where he schooled and learned to play guitar at around the age of twelve. Like so many others detailed in this book, he started off with a home-made guitar made from a five-litre oil container. He then later learned from his older brother, Albert Mokoena, who was playing in local bands like Young Lions. Although Baba is often thought to be related to Themba, they are related ancestrally but cannot be traced directly. However, they did meet in Johannesburg at the Pelican Club in Soweto.

During the 1994 Outernational Meltdown recordings with M.E.L.T. 2000 in Johannesburg, Baba met and recorded with Airto Moreira and Jose Neto. In 1999, Baba teamed up with Madala Kunene to record a collaborative album for M.E.L.T. The pair finished the production at Brownhill Studios, along with Bernard Sibusiso Mndaweni on bass, and the album was released in 2002, just months before Baba played his last chords.  The album features tracks like ‘Sphelele’, a song dedicated and named after his son Sphelele. On 18 April 2003, Baba was found lying on a hotel couch at the Royal Hotel in Durban after he collapsed during a rehearsal with Joyous Celebration. He died on that day from diabetes.


Monama Billy. 2020. Interview with Baba’s wife, Fikile Patricia Serokeng Mokoena, 1 July. Introduction To South African Guitar Styles Vol.1