Gabriel Joseph and Dees Sharma. Joseph is now the band leader of Dukes Combo.
“I believe music is one of the highest of all the artistic forms where one is able to create and express one’s true and innermost feelings, be it happy or sad.”
These were the profound words of the late Dees Sharma who was one of the founding members of the Dukes Combo, one of the longest running dance bands in Durban.
His memory as well as the band’s long history will be relived at the band’s grand 60th celebration to be held at the Enchanted Gardens (Old Airport) on November 10 from 7:30pm to 12pm.
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The band came about when Sharma, who is one of the greatest saxophonists, met with Harry Naidoo, a guitarist, at a talent contest at Himalaya Hotel in 1956. The musical duo bonded through their passion for music and later formed the D&H Duet.
Soon after this formation, singer, Midget Vahed and drummer Yenkana ‘Moon’ Gartiah, added their expertise to the band.
Accordionist and guitarist, Vassie Naidoo, then joined the band not long after, and it was this fine group of musicians who were the original members of the band. It was in 1962 that the band took on jobs as the Dukes Combo.
Selwyn Appalsamy (drums), Anthony Joseph (manager, keyboards), Gabriel Joseph (band leader, trumpet), Don John (Guitar), Ashleigh Joseph (Lead Vocalist), Tyrell Subramoney (Bass), also featuring, Brenton Govender (drums), Avikaar Maney (sax), Jason Israel (percussion).
Surprisingly, the name of the band came about while the group was strolling through town and saw an advert ‘Iron Duke Paints.’
Sharma said in a 25th anniversary brochure, the eclectic band wanted a name that was different to other dance groups, simple and easy to remember. The band name is just that.
The original band played for about 15 years before some had to leave and new talent arrived. They played at popular hotels such as the Himalaya, Ocean Terminal, The Green Cat, Island, Starlite, Pelican, Asoka and Chelmsford.
Top musicians such as singer/flutist, Sydney Caine, trumpeter, Ryan Thusie, and guitarist and vocalist, Eugene Mkhize, were part of the band.
The dance band also backed artists such as Eve Boswell, Vivienne Kensley, Essop Ganie, Eddie Watts and Zane Adams.
Among their popular albums is the 25th anniversary album, which is still popularly known today. They also produced eight dance and 14 eastern albums.
From the sounds of rock and pop to dance, ballroom and latin american music, the Dukes Combo played music the people loved to listen and dance too. Sharma believed that the band should always please the crowd, be progressive and strive for perfection.
But Sharma’s main belief was in finding young talent and grooming their musical skills and giving them a platform to play or sing.
The band’s constant and diverse range of musicians throughout the six decades, showed the forward-thinking of Sharma and his musical intelligence.
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Even through the dark days of Apartheid, the band went to the townships to use their music to bridge the gap and unite people during the hard days of the struggle.
Today, the band is made up of talented musicians, which include Selwyn Appalsamy (drums), Anthony Joseph (manager, keyboards), Gabriel Joseph (band Leader, trumpet), Don John (Guitar), Ashleigh Joseph (lead vocalist), Tyrell Subramoney (bass), also featuring, Brenton Govender (drums), Avikaar Maney (sax), Jason Israel (percussion).
Members of the community have been urged to show their support and attend the celebration.