En­tion of SA jazz

Ser,s artist and pi­anist Thandi Ntuli will re­turn to the stage dur­ing April’s e up and up, her al­bum, her band, her brand of jazz, and pa­tri­archy in the in­dus­try

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take five years to write 20 outo the way things turned out, ouo work hard, you get lucky,” wew live with the in­ter­net made

my al­bum in­de­pen­dently.” com­paredc her spi­ralling pi­ano s to those of Bheki Mse­leku. ilyi ad­mits that the work of Molelekwa, Andile Ye­nana and Mkhize also in­spired her. ever, she draws in­flu­ence from r Africa, which is why she Molelekwa’sM mu­sic so much – or­po­rateso other African mu­si­cal his work. k there is a lot of in­flu­ence on from out­side of South Africa,” affin­itya with mu­sic from Mali

in love with the work of ThereT is even a song on The garé,g a trib­ute to the great heh rhythm,” she ex­plains. derd sis­ter opened her ears to

nn­ti­nent.

Ntuli’s jour­ney with mu­sic, how­ever, be­gan at a young age and is down to her mother’s in­flu­ence.

“I don’t know if it’s my first mu­si­cal mem­ory, but one of the early ones was when I was young and play­ing pi­ano in com­pe­ti­tions. I was al­ways afraid to go on stage,” she says. “I started play­ing pi­ano at the age of four, but th­ese mem­o­ries are from when I was six or seven.”

She used to hold on to her mother’s dress tightly, she says. “I can’t re­mem­ber what she used to say, but some­how she would coax me to go on stage.

“My mom loves the pi­ano, so she tried to get all three of my older sib­lings to play, but she started quite late with them.

“I was the last born and some­one told her you have to start young – so she de­cided that this one ... this one is go­ing to do it.

“I hated most of it, but I even­tu­ally started en­joy­ing it,” she says. “It was a chore. My mom used to threaten me – that if I didn’t prac­tise she would stop send­ing me to lessons. And then I would prac­tise, so I guess I loved it the whole time. I just didn’t like the chore.

“In high school, I was start­ing to lose track when prac­tis­ing; I would end up on a tan­gent, try­ing to make up my own songs,” she says. “So I re­alised that I had an in­ter­est in writ­ing mu­sic and that I could make a ca­reer out of it.”

When I ask her how she got into jazz, she laughs.

“Jazz was a mis­take,” she says. “I had a gap year af­ter school and I went to the UK, where I met a self-taught pi­anist and I couldn’t un­der­stand how he was play­ing such beau­ti­ful mu­sic when he couldn’t read mu­sic.

“He told me that he was im­pro­vis­ing and, if I wanted to learn how to do that, jazz was a great place to learn,” she says. “So I thought: I am study­ing that. Im­pro­vi­sa­tion made it seem pos­si­ble to com­pose.”

Com­ing back to the present, Ntuli feels that it is a “re­ally ex­cit­ing time” for jazz in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“A lot of it has to do with hav­ing a live jazz venue in Jo­han­nes­burg in the form of The Or­bit,” she says.

“Be­fore The Or­bit, there was only Nicki’s Oa­sis and the Afrikan Free­dom Sta­tion.”

The Afrikan Free­dom Sta­tion has played an im­por­tant role in nur­tur­ing a gen­er­a­tion of young band­leaders and com­posers who can now step on to a new stage at The Or­bit. Ntuli is quick to ac­knowl­edge this. “The thing with the Free­dom Sta­tion is it al­lows you to be as crazy as you want,” she says. “There are cer­tain spa­ces that al­low the artist to be com­pletely them­selves.”

The al­bum art­work for The Of­fer­ing is by artist Mzwandile Buthelezi.

He has also con­trib­uted art­work to al­bums by Ben­jamin Jephta and The Amandla Free­dom En­sem­ble (an in­sti­tu­tion at the African Free­dom Sta­tion), as well as for the re­cent Born to be Black event at The Or­bit, fea­tur­ing Andile Ye­nana and Louis Mo­holo.

“I ac­tu­ally ap­proached Bra Steve Kwena from African Free­dom Sta­tion to do my al­bum art and he said, ‘I know ex­actly the guy,’” re­calls Ntuli. “So he put me in touch, and Mzwandile said he had al­ways wanted to do al­bum art.

“He said he learnt to draw while look­ing at his dad’s jazz records. In some way, I think it was des­tined for him.”

I ask her about the im­por­tance of his work in cre­at­ing a sin­gu­lar vis­ual iden­tity around a new young gen­er­a­tion of jazz com­posers and band­leaders.

“It was an or­ganic thing,” she says. “They say when peo­ple are think­ing the same things, they get drawn to each other.”

Ntuli finds her­self at the cen­tre of a fas­ci­nat­ing time of reinvention and re­dis­cov­ery in South African jazz, draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the tal­ented young mu­si­cians sur­round­ing her.

We watch her with bated breath, for her star is ris­ing, and it is ris­ing fast.

Catch Ntuli at the Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val on the Moses Molelekwa Stage on

Satur­day April 2 at 9.15pm

LEG­ENDARY

ANGIE STONE

SWV NDUDUZO MAKHATHINI’S LIS­TEN­ING

GROUND ED­DIE PARKER

MAFIK­I­ZOLO

MESHELL NDE­GEO­CELLO

BOKANI DYER

PHOTO: FACE­BOOK

PHOTO: FRIEDERIKE VON STACKELBERG

DED­I­CATED Thandi Ntuli will be per­form­ing at the up­com­ing Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Jazz fes­ti­val

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