Tony Cox is an exceptional talent on the 12-string acoustic guitar which he has been playing since he was a boy. He is one of those South African musicians who appear constantly in the local music scene but seldom manage to arise any attention internationally. This does not point at a poor quality of musicianship, but rather sheds light on how much musical jewels still lie undiscovered in the musicscape of Southern Africa. Cox takes the multitude of styles available in the Southern African diaspora and mixes them into his own musical cocktail.
Born in a small mining town of what was then Southern Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe, Tony Cox took up guitar lessons from the age of nine. He remembers that he always walked the 12 miles between his and his guitar tutor's home, which certainly contributed to his stamina to achieve what he wants to. The guitar lessons stopped when his teacher moved back to his native Portugal and the Cox family settled in the capital Salisbury, now Harare. His tutor had actually taught Hawaiian guitar; the slightly different playing technique brought the young Tony Cox to develop his own fingerpicking and sliding style which is characteristic for his playing.
In 1970 he left Zimbabwe with his family to settle in Cape Town, South Africa, and three years later, he began to pursue his musical interests seriously. He met another guitar player, Steve Newman, who a decade later would found the band Tananas. They developed a strong artistic bond and became the most widely recognized guitar duo of the country, still occasionally performing. Their 1981 show 101 Ways to Use an Acoustic Guitar was a big success throughout the country.
To breathe some fresh air, Tony Cox decided to travel across Africa towards England where he once again performed with Steve Newman and toured extensively. The variety of different musical styles he encountered during his time and his own, very African experiences, changed his musical perception completely and paved the way for his own blending style he would develop later.
After his return to South Africa in 1986, he collaborated with a variety of artists like Lesley Rae Dowling, a South African singer, or the Malawian singer/songwriter Wambali Mkandawire and wrote scores for TV shows and films. The non-interest of the South African music industry in locally grown talent made extensive touring and live appearances all the more necessary. In 1991, Tony Cox released his first album In-to-Nation, but it was Cool Friction (1996) which earned him the greatest acclaim and must be considered one of the landmark albums of South African guitar music. In 1998, Tony Cox decided to go on a musical journey to his roots in Zimbabwe. The results of this voyage were reflected on his album Looking for Zim, released the same year. It included guest performances of Wambali Mkandawire and South African singer Wendy Oldfield. Matabele Ants (2000), a collaboration with percussionist Barry van Zyl, continued the journey in exploring the African soul in Tony Cox' almost magical guitar playing.