Victor Mhleli Ntoni was born in Langa in 1947, Western Province (now Western Cape) learning music from his mother, a locally recognised singer and his uncle, an aspirant piano player. He first learned voice and guitar, before settling on the bass as his chosen instrument.
As a self-taught musician, his first official group was the Uptown Sextet and he later gained international experience touring with Joan Brickhill-Burke and Louis Burke’s production of the musical “Meropa” as musical director. In 1975 they performed a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth in Britain. Shortly thereafter, French composer and conductor Maurice Jarre engaged Ntoni to record music for the Lee Marvin film “Shout at the Devil”.
When internationally acclaimed bandleader Dave Brubeck toured South Africa in 1976 and his Black bassist was denied entry to the country, Ntoni was selected to play with the group. Assistance by Brubeck, and an introduction by Jarre, led to Ntoni enrolling at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. Later, in the late 1980s, Ntoni toured the United States of America, Europe and Thailand with Brubeck’s son, Darius, and their band, Afro-Cool Concept.
Ntoni was a composer and arranger for the likes of Hugh Masekela – notably, writing “Nomalizo” for the trumpeter, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ringo Madlingozi, Dondo, the South African Freedom Singers and the Victor Ntoni Big Band, amongst many others. He taught at the Mmabana Cultural Centre in the North West Province and was a musical director for productions by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at Sun City and for the 1980s era Carling Circle of Jazz.
Ntoni had only one solo album, “Heritage”, which was released in 2004. It was nominated for a South African Music Award for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album”.
Victor Ntoni passed away in a Johannesburg, Gauteng hospital on 28 January 2013.