A third member of the Abraxas Band has passed away. Eric Juba, 56, an alto saxophonist and jazz vocalist who was headhunted from Zimbabwe by Street Horn to play for Abraxas, lost his life to a stroke.
Juba, an alumnus of the Zimbabwe School of Music, had a rich music career that spans over 30 years. “He was particularly good at singing jazz standards, his voice was reminiscent of Louis Armstrong,” Abraxas manager, Soares Katumbela, recalled.
A multi-instrumentalist, Juba played drums, percussion, guitar and saxophone. At the time he was sought by Abraxas, Juba played drums and sang vocals for the Jacaranda Jazz Cats based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
“We met in Francistown in the 80s when he played at a club named New Yorker, where I worked as a jazz disc jockey,” Katumbela recalled. Jazz Impacto was the name of the band, and he played alongside world-renowned Zimbabwean jazz trumpeter, Paul Lunga.
Abraxas Band is a group that has had a part in setting up the landscape of today’s local jazz scene. Formed in 1996 by Street Horn Promotions management at a club that was known as Santana (named for the psychedelic Mexican guitarist, Carlos Santana), Abraxas took its name from Carlos Santana’s third album released in 1970, which contained recognisable hits, particularly Oye Como Va.
Juba played with the Cool Crooners with whom he recorded two albums. At the time of his passing away, Abraxas were preparing to record their debut album; they had already composed seven songs.
“What Juba brought to Abraxas was his amazing warm personality. He was a man of the people and popularized Abraxas. He really sold Abraxas wherever he was,” Katumbela said in retrospect.
Juba was reportedly a true jazz singer of cabaret inclination. He had a striking resemblance of Tsilo Baitsile and also had a similar singing style to Baitsile. Katumbela had hoped to see Juba and Baitsile collaborate at Satchmo’s first anniversary, paying homage to the original Satchmo.
Abraxas bandleader, Zakes Gwaza, is the last survivor from the band’s original line-up, said Katumbela. He has been the backbone of the band through the previous deaths of sax player and original bandleader, Basil Kumpewu, in 1999 and Dave Munemu who was the original drummer in 2002.
Abraxas will continue to record, probably with Lister Boleseng who has featured in Abraxas band line up in the past.
Juba had children from a previous marriage but had remarried a co-worker at Street Horn.