Steve Dyer was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in 1960. His parents listened consistently to music of the Western classical masters. He also remembers maskandi musicians walking the streets as they played their guitars, and the Soul Brothers and “kwela” playing on the radio. He began composing music at the age of 10.
Steve completed a B Mus degree in performance at the University of Natal in 1981, majoring in saxophone and flute. Refusing military conscription, he then left South Africa and lived in Botswana for 5 years. Here he came into contact with the exile sounds blowing through the horns of Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa. He helped form “Shakawe” led by Jonas Gwangwa and played in the band for 3 years, where he immersed himself in the mbaqanga music tradition. At this time Steve also listened extensively to saxophonists such as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Winston Mankunku.
In 1988 after a stint in the U.K. he settled in Zimbabwe where he formed the group Southern Freeway. Two albums were produced Southern Freeway (1989) and Indlela yenkululeko (1992). Steve came into contact here with the more introspective and often rhythmically complex mbira based Shona music, as well as reliving some Nguni based music playing with musicians that had Ndebele cultural roots.
In 1990 he joined the Amandla cultural ensemble of the A.N.C on a 7 week tour of Japan.
With democracy on the horizon in 1993 Steve returned to South Africa. After studying briefly at the University of Natal, he relocated to Johannesburg and directed the Soweto String quartet live performance that toured Europe and Australia/New Zealand.
He conceptualised, directed and performed with the first ever substantive Southern African music collaboration “Mahube” in 1997. Mahube toured Southern Africa and Europe and recorded recorded 2 albums: Music from Southern Africa 1998 (SAMA nomination), Qhubeka 2003 (Kora award)). Steve went on to produce 5 Oliver Mtukudzi albums including the seminal “Tuku music”.
Steve has released 5 solo albums since his return to S.A: Down South in Africa – 2000, Son of the Soil – 2004, Lifecycle 2006 (SAMA nomination) Native Art 2007 SAMA nomination, IAP (U.S.A.) finalist), Ubuntu music 2012 Steve has also composed and performed for feature film and TV soundtrack, as well as for modern dance companies Moving into Dance and Tumbuka.
In 2010 he composed and performed Rebirth, a first African concerto for soprano saxophone, orchestra with saxophones, African percussion and marimbas. Rebirth premiered in Johannesburg on 1st May 2010 with an 118-piece Miagi youth orchestra.
March 2012 saw the release of Steve’s latest musical project “Ubuntu music”. The recordings were made in Cape town with the exceptional and youthful talents of Bokani Dyer acoustic piano, Shaun Johannes acoustic bass, Lwanda Gogwana – trumpet/flugelhorn, Andre Swartz – drums/percussion. The live performance at the Cape town international jazz festival 2012 also featured these musicians, and was centred around these sensory new compositions.
Steve is currently composing for different sound colours and palettes: orchestra, wind ensembles with voice and rhythm section, marimbas, string quartets and more, in addiition to playing wiith his quartet, running the Dyertribe recording facility and speaheading various musical and creative projects.