ISTENING to Zakes Bantwini s new album, The Fake Book and Real Book: My Music Bible, you can’t help but wonder if it’s house music or what is termed nu jazz.
After all Bantwini, real name Zakhele Madida, has said more than once that jazz is the core foundation of his sound despite it being popular in the dance and house music scenes.
Last year, the musician was one of the highlights of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival when he performed with a 12-piece band that included a full horn section and drums. In 2012 he also obtained his music degree in the genre from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Bantwini continues the jazz thread through this project as he features jazz great Themba Mkhize. I couldn’t as Zakes Bantwini present that song; it needed a jazz legend to endorse it,” he says of the track Spain, where Mkhize lays on his keys masterfully against the bassline and the horn. The song, a favourite of Bantwini’s, is originally by American jazz player Chick Corea.
Even though the suave mover and shaker has gone a bit academic, his house fanbase will not be lost. The Clap Your Hands and Shake Your Bum Bum hitmaker reckons he’s mixed the perfect fusion here.
I wanted to experiment with how you can commercialise jazz and present it as house music.” Asked whether he feels he’s achieved this, Bantwini goes as far as labelling this album his best work yet. It is one of my proudest projects I’ve put out; if someone told me to resign right now, I would happily retire with this album.”
Studying music came in handy in the creation of this work as he was able to draw on his musical theory knowledge to come up with something fresh.
It’s the first album that talent [has been] equivalent to academic maths. I dug deep on my music theories; I took the jazz standards books, went to those songs and played the chords and found inspiration there. I’ve worked on this one a lot,” says Bantwini, who spent three and a half years working on the album.
This leads to a thorny issue for REGGAE culture had a brief revival last night when the Reggae Roots and Culture Festival took over the Maboneng Precinct in the Joburg CBD.
Legends, One People and Tidal Waves headlined the fest, accompanied by reggae advocates Admiral and Jahseed. Legends are a UK-based band whose music is dedicated to the life of Bob Marley. One People are former backing vocalists of the late Lucky Dube, and Tidal Waves are a long-standing South African reggae band.
Event organiser Zingiswa Sigaba says the concert was finally giving the reggae scene a voice in the commercial space.
I have always seen a gap in the market for reggae music. Hip-hop was once a niche market, but look at it now. We’re trying to say let’s do the same for reggae.”
Sigaba says people are hungry for a thriving reggae scene outside the stereotypical perceptions of it being an excuse for smoking dagga.
In fact, she admits that this was one of the challenges when she was looking for sponsorship. People haven t separated the religion from the music. The music and culture is very conscious; it’s about unity and love and this country needs that.”
Bongo Maffin s Jahseed has been advocating for the reggae scene since he first DJed at PolitBuro club in Yeoville in 1996.
People do confuse the music with the religion, but if you search you’ll find the religion side has nothing to do with the music.”
He and Admiral have enjoyed a following for years, and continue their Thursday night set of reggae and dancehall at the Bassline.
Sanza Sandile, a former YFM DJ and now the owner of an African cuisine restaurant, believes that the reggae culture pulse still beats strong.
Reggae is alive, from the the shanties to the guy who does dreadlocks on street corners; for me those are the signs. The industry is not just music.
I like that with the culture we can share bread, ideas and politics. It’s kind of like poetic justice and it’s something I embrace.”