Sunday World - - Life & Style -

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.”

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