Born in Zimbabwe, multiple award-winning South African acoustic guitarist Tony Cox
has become a veritable icon of the instrument in his own country and has been described
as one of South Africa’s finest musical exports. For a number of years now he has
undertaken regular forays into Europe and North America and has seen a loyal fan-base
begin to develop in the UK, Germany and Canada.
When he was just nine years old Tony began, incredibly, learning and playing the
Hawaiian guitar in what was then Rhodesia. This was brought about by one Archie Pereira
arriving from Lisbon and for reasons unknown decided to settle in the backwater of
Kwe-Kwe, a town 20 miles away from Tony’s mining-town birthplace, Redcliff.
teens and after Archie disappeared back to Lisbon, Tony changed to a conventional
guitar style and later, in order to ‘get the technique’, he studied the classical
guitar for an intensive 2-year period. In 1969 the family left Rhodesia to settle
in Cape Town South Africa and it is here the young guitarist really started to absorb
and assimilate the multi-textured rhythms and facets of the rich, indigenous music
of his upbringing and surroundings.
He began to compose his own music early and immediately
charged it with the African imagery that is very much a part of this unique guitar
players’ world perspective. Using all the finger-style techniques he had absorbed
over the years from such greats as Leo Kottke and Bert Jansch and closer to home,
Sipho Mchunu and Noise Khanyile both great exponents of Zulu Maskandi guitar style,
Tony honed and developed a style all his own. With the rigorous precision of classical
technique juxtaposing the loose, laid-backed delivery of a master at work, Tony’s
music tumbles out at you, hitting your tapping feet with its solid groove and taking
your heart and mind on harmonic journeys that stretch away to African horizons.
Cox on-stage is as warm and engaging with his audience as he is off-stage. Telling
stories and anecdotes and using much wry humour, he draws a person in and you find
yourself listening really closely to a tune you may never have heard before and then
being punched in the solar-plexus at the power and delivery of that tune.
being a solo performer Tony has collaborated and recorded with many other musicians
to produce three award-winning albums and a string of nominations. ‘China’ (UK/SA
slang for friend) is just such an album. He recorded it in 2002 featuring many of
the cream of SA musicians including long-time partner and friend, fellow guitarist
Steve Newman. China is a fine example of Tony’s ability to work beyond the confines
of solo guitar playing. The album won the ‘best instrumental’ category at the 2003
SAMA awards. He won the same award another two times for his albums, Matabele Ants
in 2001, and Blue Anthem in 2008.