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Peter Tladi

in conversation with Prof. Daniel Plaatjies

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Peter man

1950 Born in Sharpeville

1960 Moved to Everton

1966 Moved to Sebokeng

1970 Ran a nightclub in the Vaal triangle

1984 Started International travel for EMI conferences

1988 Did not resign with EMI and decided to start a management company for artist

1989 Founded T-Musician

1997 Started Joy of Jazz

2000 Joy of Jazz moved to Johannesburg


During the early 1980s, a young and ambitious Peter Tladi was ticking all the boxes right in his fledgling record industry career. His white bosses at EMI Music were impressed with his work. His output was impressive. He had joined the company as a low-ranking trainee employee, quickly rising to the ranks of Marketing Manager. The company had trained him professionally, given him a car and other employment perks considering his underprivileged township upbringing. He was born in Sharpeville in 1950 to a low-income household. His father managed to sustain the family on his R10 a week salary. He remembers growing up listening to his father’s vast collection of vinyl gramophone records while his father and his friends enjoyed calabashes of umqombothi.

The musical seeds his father had planted in him soon took root in primary and high school. He participated in the school theatre and even formed a band. After high school, he joined an African music and drama association to study music. During his spare time at the school, he worked for a theatre company nearby. Due to his family’s financial hardships, he would often get tired of walking long distances to the theatre where he worked and opt to pass the night in toilets, alongside taxi drivers at taxi stations. These were the grueling circumstances that Peter had to surmount. By the early 1980s, he was already working for EMI Music. Being a Marketing Manager at a top music company was not enough to contain his ambitions, he reached for more. In 1986, he turned his back to the record company and set his sight on a bigger dream. That dream transformed South African live music scene into a hot bed for cultural dissemination and cultural appreciation. He established a music management company called T.Musicman, which started representing artists struggling to find tangible representation in a predominantly white-managed industry.

Peter describes himself as 'a businessman first and foremost, and then an entertainer', and he credits this outlook as being the motivation for the inception of the 'Joy of Jazz' music festival. He saw opportunity in an area where no one thought to look. Decades back when he proposed to stage a Jazz concert at the State Theatre in Pretoria, he was met with doubt and even rejection from the board. He was told there was no way he could fill Rendezvous of the State Theatre for a Jazz concert. He superceded their expectations by filling it for a whole week. The following year due to volumes, he was given the Opera, and soon enough there was no ore room to contain the the massive crowd he was pulling. The festival moved to choicier and larger venues and locations nationwide. The festival today is a melting pot of cultural entertainment and appreciation, creating thousands jobs every year it holds. With Joy of Jazz, as with all other convention defying ventures he undertakes, Peter Tladi keeps affirming that with determination, passion can translate to profit.

Peter leader

Expose our people to  other nations cultures

Key Quality of a Servant Leader

Peter Tladi

Peter interview

Things You May Not Know About Peter 

These are drawn from the full interview, which for Daniel was from "OneComradeToAnother'. Watch the full interview, here.

PETER  copy.jpg



The long walk from Sharpeville

“... I was born in Sharpeville and we left Sharpeville in 1960 when things were happening. My mother took me and my brother and we walked from Sharpeville to Everton which is almost 60 kilometers away from Sharpeville. Everybody had to run because it was bad. When we arrived in Everton, we found the planes were flying low. They were scaring people to death. That's how we ended up in Everton…”



Always stood up to the Whites

“... I work with quite a number of white people. I find that a lot of white people come off with me as a friend and as a colleague in the industry. I think that the main thing was my honesty and talking straight to them. I don’t talk to them like some black guy to a white guy no. That's why they respected me. Because I got so much support when I started T music man from quite a lot of them… I never came crawling like some young black guy… I’ve always faced people with facts. That's why when I was still at school I used to do peace jobs at a company called African Cables. I got fired every week because I would beat a white person. You see the technical guys, they used to be very naughty when we passed by, they would pass remarks and I would turn back and beat the guy up and I would get fired. I beat quite a number of them… The black guys used to like me but then I didn't have a job. Those were the apartheid days. We would pass with a loaf of bread and they would use the K-word because nobody will touch them as that's their fathers’ company. I wouldn't stand for it. I’ll go back and... So maybe that’s the arrogance I grew up with…”



What’s in a name?

“... You would want to know why T.Musicman … T stands for Tladi music but during those days when you came with a funny African name like Tladi, you will never see the look of support that you need. So T.Musicman sounded nice, it sounded very white. Tladi Music Management - T.Musicman. So that's how it came about, that's how T.Musicman started… As for how it came about, I was running a very good artist management company, but then my artist didn't have work, so I decided to start my own shows and make sure my artists are working so that's how I started doing shows all over the country…”



Driven by passion

“... I saw it not as a struggle but as a business opportunity. When I travelled to places like America, I saw how artists were being managed and how their managers were all almost like their partners. I then thought to myself, am I going to go on working for EMI? I had that young spirit of a black guy who wants to run his own business… Every time I walked into EMI and saw my white bosses, they would tell me, well done! The sales are good today… I was doing well there, I got there as a manager and by the time I left I was the director of the company... But I saw an opportunity and that's why I started T.Musicman. I saw a business opportunity, to develop the artists themselves, because they were struggling, there were no black artists’ managers then. There were quite a number of white artist managers but they were managing their own you know so I saw an opportunity…”

since 1990s


Exhibiting/curating cultures through music

“... When we came to Newtown, our first show there had 1800 people in attendance. By the time we left in 2014, we were getting about 25 thousand people. And we came here, and the highest we can go here is about 26 thousand so that's quite a lot of people… It feels great especially when people send you messages and say, thanks. Do it again for us. Especially South Africans. A lot of the artists that I bring are the people who have sold a lot of records in this country… Our people have to be exposed to other nations' cultures and that's probably why I have kept on. It was tough in the beginning. The first 20 years were tough. It's a little bit easier now. We got Standard Bank in and it became a little bit easy. But bringing other cultures to this country is cheaper than other people coming here. If we didn't do that some of them would have never seen Houston, all they would do is just buy the CDs … I love the music as well, I love to see art… When I used to manage Bro Hugh Masekela, we used to do a lot of shows in Europe. In Europe you don't do shows in only venues. They do shows in a park as well… You go and see how Fela’s son is performing, Hugh Masekela performing, and nobody is being charged, nobody is getting anything, yet there's a show going on. And I went and asked the promoter why don't you charge. Why do you do these festivals for free? He says that's our job, that's why these people elected us, so that we can bring the other cultures from around the world so they can experience them… Most of these people, do you think they can afford to come to Johannesburg to see Black Mambazo? No, we bring Black Mambazo to them…”



Vinyl, Umqombothi and the father that inspired

“... My father brought home the vinyl that had broken. He collected them. Every Friday he would bring a record, and I would play the gramophone. He would say hey Peter, play the gramophone, put the little needle there and that's probably why I like music, maybe that's where the influence. When you put the vinyl on, then you put the record first, and then you put the needle and then you give it speed, that’s when you start playing it. It just plays forever… Those little needles get finished quickly, so you have to put in another needle… I made sure to tell my father on Friday when he leaves that hey, don't forget to buy the needles. He had to buy the needles. He was just a worker who got 10 bucks a week, so all he could say to me was, you must listen to these songs I brought home… He used to buy so many Manhattan and African and sports types… With his friends, they would drink their Umqombothi while they listened… Because in my home, they used to sell Umqombothi so they would come on Friday to buy the Umqombothi so they knew that there's a new record coming so they would listen to that. They listened to new records and the ANC newspaper/radio … Before they arrived, I had to read to my father first what's there in Suthu so that when they come he can tell them the stories that hey Russia is coming with a bomb under the ground it's going to kill the whites only. There they would always talk about Mandela… Mandela is now in Russia, Mandela has gone to the Chinese… I just read for them. It didn't mean anything then, for me. All I was in a hurry for was to finish and go and play…”



The musical custodian of an Era

“... I became a director of EMI records which gave me a chance to travel to conferences and I realised that in South Africa we don't have management. Artist management. What I used to do at EMI is to be a manager… A manager without being paid because I had to help my artists with promoters and the promoters would call me and book the artists and help them. The artist didn't know how to read their contracts so it was a double job. So when my contract came to an end at EMI, I told them that I'm not renewing my contract because I want to start an artist management company. And EMI was so scared they thought this guy is going to steal all our artists, he's going to open a record company. I said no so they then suggested that we start a joint venture. I can run my artist management company, but we should have a joint venture. They were very clever. But I thought that's cool because I’ve got a very good backing. so that's how T.Musicman started. The first artist that I had was Sipho Mabuso*, then from there, it was Rebecca Malupe, then it was a lot. I managed a lot of artists. T.Musicman grew up and then Hugh Masekela came in… I was also Miriam Makeba running boy in South Africa. She would just phone to say hey you go there I need this and that. So that's how she became my very close mother…”



The beginning of Joy of Jazz

“... Hugh Masekela became the deputy CEO at the state theater and the first person he called was me. He said hey I want black people walking into that venue, it's too pale, everybody coming in is white. That’s how he employed T.Musicman to do shows as well as other black artists. That's how the Joy of Jazz started. It started at the rendezvous of the state theater. The board was very much against it but Masekela with Allen Joseph* who was the CEO, were very persuasive. So they gave me a chance. I said jazz will work and they said no it wont work. The first Joy of Jazz in the rendezvous was full, for a week. For a week that place was full they couldn't believe it… So the following year they said okay we can give you the drama theater as well, I said fine… The drama theater was packed to capacity and the rendezvous was packed then the following year the third year, they said, no take the opera as well. I did and then we filled it up… There then came a time when the idea of jazz was about to be buried. And then standard bank came on board and said no we don't have to bury it, we’ll support you…”

Please note this is a word-for-word transcript from Daniel and Peter's conversation. 



The journey; hardship and heroes

“... When I was at primary school, I used to be involved in theater in drama. One time in standard 3 the school used to take kids to go and watch shows at Wilberforce college. Wilberforce college used to be run by the American methodist church, and they made sure that they encouraged music. That’s where I saw the Manhattan Brothers but what influenced me the most was ‘King Kong’ . They brought a small contingent of musicians to Wilberforce college and they took two pupils from each class at certain schools. And I was one of the two that was chosen in my class and we went and watched that. That stuck in my head. That musical stuck in my head and I remember when I came back, all I could think of was just musicals, musicals. I even started my own musical at home. At the shops and at home I would get guys and try to do it ourselves and I ended up having formed a close harmony group. You see that influence from my father from way back kept creeping… At home on Sundays in Everton, all over Everton there was traditional music being played. There were Sutus who used to have groups like Black Mambazo. On Sundays the Sutus sang, they wore white trousers and blue jackets… I used to attend all those I don't know why but I used to attend because I liked the music. So those were things that were happening musically to me… When I finished high school, I went to K house and joined African music and drama association to study music. So during the study of music at the K- house, there was a theater group downstairs called Phoenix players so when I was not doing lessons upstairs I used to go and do part time work for the theater groups, I would put up posters . There, Phoenix recognised my ability as a marketer because I used to do a lot of things. They then appointed me to be deputy administrator at some point… I remember I ended up as a deputy administrator and then Gideon Kapiwa, a great man liked me, and took me to be a PRO. So when I was not going to classes I was with Kapiwa... The saddest thing was that sometimes I didn't have money to go back home and because of pride or arrogance. Instead of going to Bra Gideon to ask for help, I would go to the taxi Station. There were taxi drivers who stayed there, slept there etc. I would stay there and when I feel sleepy I would sleep in the toilet. So Bro Gideon once said, Peter you were wearing these things yesterday even the day before yesterday what's happening… I told him what the real problem was so he took me to his house and said you're going to stay there and stay with my family…”



Finding his marketing voice

“... I used to go into marketing meetings at EMI records and sit there, a township boy. All I could hear was this English that I couldn't understand. Ones I didn't learn at school. They were just talking about boring marketing… The four Ps etc… I then enrolled silently at a marketing college… It was an executive education. I was doing sales and sales management. After a while, my boss recognised something different in the meetings. He saw that Peter was now getting in and asking people and suggesting things in a more marketing way. He wondered what was happening because I used to come and sit and say nothing. So he called me into his office and asked, What happened? You mean you've learned we've taught you so fast. So I told him no, I've been attending college for about two years. Executive management at Eden college and then he said so you've been paying for yourself I said yes, so he said from today we will pay everything that you paid before and the company took me to school until I got my diplomas and all that. And he's still around that guy, he's in Alabama, he manages artists… They even got me a new car… Before then I was driving an old battered cumbi[uw] that was scary to go in…”

To date


An art of relevance

“... Businesses should be supporting the arts in this country... Standard Bank has been with us for about 17 years. But that's Standard Bank. I mean you show me one company here that has stayed with the arts for so long. Standard Bank has got the young artist of the year awards which is now 30 years, and the Joy of Jazz is 17 years… I think the French taught us that we need to have an arts and culture department. I think they are trying their level best. But the allocation of funds is not cool because as far as South Africans are concerned the arts is where you go and enjoy yourself. It hasn't been taken as a serious business… Bro Hugh ( Hugh Masekela ) says, “our government is afraid of the arts, because the arts helped dethrone apartheid”... Mariam Makeba once spoke at the United Nations, saying “It was us who sang the songs that influenced the people”. So maybe somebody is still afraid of them. That's why the budgets are not coming up like the French. We can't compare to the French we can't compare to Angola… I heard that in Angola, a percentage or 2 percent of oil and diamonds or so has to go to the arts department. The Angolans never come to cry about their government. They've got enough. But in South Africa I don't think the arts even smell the one percent of the diamonds or the gold no we don't. You can imagine if the 2 percent goes to the department of arts and culture…”

Full Interview 

Peter Full Interview
Peter lesson

Servant Leaders must expose our people to other nations cultures

PETER  copy.jpg

Why Arts and Culture is so important?

"Well it's quite important after people come from work with stresses of work related things they need to relax. We are a therapy type of situation. The arts and culture. And other nations know us through arts and culture and we know them through arts and culture as well. That's why it's important. The music the theatre the poetry [delivers] social cohesion that's what we need. ...."

Daniel in conversation with

Peter Tladi





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