Bokani Dyer

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7min2260

I couldn’t help but ponder on Perfect Hlongwane’s description of black joy, as Eskom’s blackout hit right in the middle of Malcom Jiyane and Nonku Phiri’s performance at the Joburg Theatre.

“There is laughter and there is festivity in the very pits of hell, because that is the only way to escape the searing licks of these flames, even if only briefly and in bursts whose volatility already gives an indication that they may not last,” the Culture Review‘s Associate Editor, Hlongwane said in describing the theme at last week’s Kulture Blues Festival.

The Uprize Ensemble which was performing on stage together, were the night’s last act. It was also the first time Jiyane played his much-admired album, Umdali. It was symbolic that the last song they performed before he lights were cut was, Sizwile. Nonku was just getting into performing her solo work went the theatre got blacked out. While a handful of people decided to leave as the organisers were re-connecting the sound to the generator, the rest of us were patient enough and watched the rest of the performance.

Phiri and Jiyane on stag together are a joy to watch. While Jiyane is the mad scientist dripping of sweat on keys, Phiri stationed under the blue lights she sorely asked for, was like a spiritual guide on her voice changer with her sound effects.

uPHIRI: Nonku performing at the Kulture Blues Festival at Joburg Theatre. Photo supplied
uPHIRI: Nonku performing at the Kulture Blues Festival at Joburg Theatre. Photo by Zivnai Matangi

They were supported by Lungile Kunene drums and The Brother Moves On’s Ayanda Zalekile on bass. The latter’s singing took everyone aback, even Nonku turned back pleasantly surprised, with a smile she asked “And then wena?”. You could see it, feel it and definitely hear the joy that Eskom tried to steal as we sat in the audience enjoying the talent on stage.

Before their performance was Gabi Motuba and Tumi Mogorosi alongside. Gabi looked elegant in her green dress and her natural hair in fine splendour. Her voice exudes the tranquillity one would experience in a view of Mpumalanga’s Three Rondavels on a quiet morning. Every South African deserves to at least experience her voice live. While Mogorosi doesn’t fight with the drums, but somehow caresses them with intent. Bokani Dyer on piano, Daliwonga Tsangela on cello, Dalisu Ndlazi on bass complimented each other and that too, was black joy in action.

THA ENSAMBLE (from L to R): Daliwonga Tsangela, Bokani Dyre,
THA ENSAMBLE (from L to R): Daliwonga Tsangela, Bokani Dyre, Dalisu Ndlazi, Gabi Motuba and Tumi Mogorosi. Photo by Zivanai Matangi

The day’s first performer was East London’s Luyolo Lenga, an eccentric artist with strong vocals. He opened his performance playing the Uhadi traditional instrument and then later played from his acoustic guitar. One would’ve liked to hear more of him playing Uhadi.

A common thread of the night was the artist’s complaints of the sound, which seemed to lie with the sound engineer of the day. While comedian Roni Modimola’s jokes left the handful audience cringing at times.

THA OPENING ACT: Luvuyo Lenga
THA OPENING ACT: Luvuyo Lenga. Photo by Zivanai Matangi

“It was a beautiful day. On and off the stage. Black love permeated the Joburg Theatre and when loadshedding hit us during Malcolm Jiyane/ Uprize Ensemble’s set, the spirits remained high and the musicians continued playing with high esteem, much to the adulation of the audience. It was a special night man,” says satisfied producer of the festival, Kulani Nkuna.

Clement Gama03/10/2022
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6min2230

The Kulture Blues Festival returns for the second consecutive year, but instead of Tshwane, The Joburg Theatre will be the venue for this unique event by Culture Review magazine. This year’s instalment is themed Black Joy.

“Because Black resistance is also Black joy. Yes, there is laughter and there is festivity in the very pits of hell, because that is the only way to escape the searing licks of these flames, even if only briefly and in bursts whose volatility already gives an indication that they may not last; unless they recur repeatedly and without repentance,” says Culture Review Associate Editor, Perfect Hlongwane.

The festival’s name was inspired by a Putumayo compilation album titled African Blues. “That album was essentially the blues but in an African context and in our African languages. The Kulture part was taken from the name of our platform Culture Review and an attempt to pay homage to our particular type of sound,” even producer Kulani Nkuna says.

While last year’s edition took place in a space of two days at the State Theatre, this year will be a one-day affair. But this isn’t a downgrade of the talent nor quality, if anything, Nkuna and his team have put together a uniquely strong line-up.

Malcom Jiyane. Photo Supplied
Man Of Music: Malcom Jiyane

Malcolm Jiyane/ Uprize Ensemble, Tumi Mogorosi & Gabi Motuba, and Luyolo Lenga. The performance will take place on Saturday afternoon.

It will be the first time that Jiyane performs his globally acclaimed album, Umdali alongside the Uprize Ensemble which will feature vocalist, Nonku Phiri. Ever since inception, the Uprize Ensemble have never performed together live on stage. “Ever since I ever worked with Nonku Phiri on the Spaza project I fell in love with her voice her work and her gift of ART instantly,” Jiyane says of their upcoming performance at the Joburg Theatre.

Both Gabi Motuba and Tumi Mogorosi have consistently exuded a particular kind of intellectual rigour, in their approach to the music of our people, that has been truly impressive to follow. Their presence, therefore, at this year’s edition of the Kulture Blues Festival promises, not only a sonic feast for the devotees who will be in attendance, but really, an artistic experience supreme. They will be rendering offerings from their sonically astute collaboration album Sanctum/Sanctorium, exploring themes around the sacredness of family and Black communion. The band will take to the stage with the talents of Bokani Dyer on piano, Daliwonga Tsangela on cello, Dalisu Ndlazi on bass, Gabi Motuba on vocals and Tumi Mogorosi on drums.

Tumi Mogorosi (L) and Gabi Motuba. Photo supplied
Tumi Mogorosi (L) and Gabi Motuba. Photo supplied

Rounding off the gifts that the festival will offer is the enigmatic Luyolo Lenga, a transcendent artist whose presently-lowkey status really defies belief. To listen to his 16-track album Sabela, released in 2020, is to encounter an artist whose deep reverence for his Xhosa culture and African spirituality is drenched in exuberance and humility. His is a fusion style of music that pays homage to the isiXhosa language, accessing ancestral sounds from ancient bow and percussion instruments. He will perform from 2019’s Siphiwo Sam and Sabela projects.

The host on the day will be renowned comedian, Roni Modimola who many would know as Sidepocket from his skit on the iconic Pure Monate Show.

The show is made possible by support from the Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy Programme.

Thato Mahlangu09/25/2019
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8min3970

Who would have thought that something so good as South African jazz would be born from the dark days of apartheid?

Well the likes of ntate Hugh Masekela, ntate Abdullah Ibrahim, and mama Dolly Rathebe, and mama Miriam Makeba, didn’t let what the apartheid government and its oppressing laws silent their voices.

One can’t begin to tell the story of Jazz icons or its history without going back to the past, a place which most of us are comfortable with it being erased from our minds.

Jazz music in South Africa came at a time when the then government was really making life difficult for many black, coloured, and Indian citizens. It was a nightmare for artists to freely express their minds and talk about how things were in South Africa. There were oppressive laws that made it hard for omama Dorothy Masuka and obaba Jonas Gwangwa to paint pictures of what was happening in the townships.

Miriam Makeba. Archive photo
Miriam Makeba. Archive photo

I had the privilege to meet ntate Sipho ‘Hotsix’ Mabuse where he spoke at the Democracy Works Foundation discussion that was held at the Constitution Hill about the impact Jazz music had in people’s lives.

Many musicians during those years sang songs that portrayed apartheid in bad light, which seek to highlight black people’s hard and traumatic experiences under that government, something which the then regime didn’t want to happen.

Some of these artists like mama Makeba spoke out against the evil acts that were done against people of colour, especially black South Africans, including police brutality, racial segregation and unfair policies that kept many black people under oppression.

“Musicians, visual, performing, spoken word artists used their talents to weaken and topple the apartheid government in South Africa but the government wouldn’t back down easily,” Mabuse said.

Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Archive
Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Archive

Harsh punishment like banning of their work would be made possible by the officials, who would later banish some of these artists who were not willing to keep their mouths shut.

They didn’t fear persecution and prosecution, even if it meant having their homes petrol-bombed or being killed.

Mabuse said throughout his music life, all he wanted was to change people’s lives through music, which he and the old school school generation managed to do so well.

PASSING ON THE BATON

Ntate Masekela, who was affectionately known as Bra Hugh, collaborated with many young South African musicians, including a track with Thandiswa Mazwai, which speaks about violence perpetrated on non-South Africans by locals, a topic that is currently grabbing news headlines in the country.

Bra Hugh believed in mentoring young people and we can see young musicians like Bokani Dyer, Mandla Mlangeni, the late Lulu Dikana, Nomfundo Xaluva following in the footsteps of those who came before them. The baton has surely been passed on as we are seeing more and more young musicians like Zoë Modiga, Langa Mavuso, Ami Faku and Kesivan Naidoo contributing to new school Jazz that IS sometimes referred to as Afro soul or Afro-Jazz.

Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi
Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi

Even though we are fighting new battles as a country, old ones like racism and crime are still making us turn against each instead of being unified as tata Mandela wanted.

JAZZ LIVES ON

Through initiatives like the annual Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, which starts tomorrow, Jazz artists and producers have been supported for the past 21 years, many of them are gaining international recognition just by performing at the stage.

New notable voices in the jazz scene are given a platform to showcase their talents at the Showcase Stage.

The Showcase stage has been unearthing new and raw talent for the past few years, while the On the Road to the official Joy of Jazz Festival also looks at shinning the spotlight on new jazz artists like the Karabo Mohlala Quartet, Thabang Tabane Quartet, Zano, aus’ Tebza, Sobantwana and Nelisiwe.

Mandisi Dyantyis performing at the Sophiatown The Mix. Photo by Lindo Mbhele
Mandisi Dyantyis performing at the Sophiatown The Mix. Photo by Lindo Mbhele

Some of these artists have been in the music scene for years now, but it would be the first time for them to perform at the festival. This would introduce them to new audiences, who would be traveling from countries overseas to attend the event.


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