Tumi Mogorosi

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9min500

In the last two years, Covid19 hasn’t only robbed us of our loved ones, jobs and freedom of movement, but also music festivals that we normally see around this time. It’s the first time in two years that the South African State Theatre welcomes patrons to its annual Mzansi Fela Festival, without the dogmatic restrictions.

“Particularly the past two years, audience numbers dropped largely due to a limiting environment that came with COVID-19 restrictions. Gatherings were discouraged and people got used to staying at home. However, we kept shows and festivals going and even went at length to deliver content to our audiences through digital means to keep the theatre love alive, the South African State Theatre’s Artistic Director Aubrey Sekhabi tells Tha Bravado.

The Mzansi Fela Festival (MFF) which was found in 2007 celebrates its 15 years this year. The festival is in its final week of the 2022 instalment which commenced on December 1st and runs until this Sunday where renowned vocalist Thandiswa Mazwai will close it off. “Our people have missed the live performance spaces and the electric atmosphere that comes with being together. Hence we are welcoming them back with a diverse and star-studded line-up boasting musicians, comedians, poets, dancers, thespians and more for them to dig in,” says Sekhabi.

Crowd Puller: Zonke Dikane. Image Supplied

With this being the festival’s 15th year, Sekhabi says the disparity between this year and previous years isn’t that big. “Same festival, different artists – we have kept the same look and feel, with the exception that we included the Conversations with the Author, featuring the legendary Des Lindberg, chatting to us about his and her departed partner Dawn’s book, Every Day is an Opening Night.”

The past few weeks have seen the various stages at The State Theatre occupied by artists KB Motsilanyane, Zonke, Tumi Mogorosi, Mbuso Khoza, Zakhele Mabena, Pdoto & Blaklez, and comedians Thapelo King Flat Mametja, Trevor Gumbi, and Toll A$$ Mo. According to the Artistic Director, Zonke’s show has been the biggest in terms of audience numbers at this year’s MFF.

Funny Man: Thapelo King Flat Mametja. Credit Thobekile Shoba

“Zonke Dikana’s concert happened on the 2nd of December brought us a full house in our biggest theatre, The Opera, a 1300-seater. The partnership with Banda Banda Agency brought us a convincing audience number, followed by other in-house productions billed under the festival. Mayibuye Community Outreach programme which is a developmental programme with 15 productions, has also brought quite a convincing number of audience since it started on the 1st of December 2022,” Sekhabi says. 1264 of the 1300 seats were occupied during Zonke’s performance. The Soil and Langa Mavuso also brought a steady audience to their concert.

Teacher: Mbuso Khosa with Afrikan Heritage Ensamble in Amahubo in Concert at The State Theatre. Credit Sbonga Guyborn GatsheniTheatre.

The common thread between all the artists showcasing their work at this year’s MFF is their strong sense of identity, of being African. “Together with both independent producers, Banda Banda and the Akum Agency, we work together to curate the festival. The vision of the South African State Theatre is to be ‘The prestigious theatre of choice for a distinctly Pan-African Experience'” Sekhabi tells me.

The festival the stage for the future generations of artists through its legacy development programme, the Mayibuye Community Outreach Programme. This is a two-year mentorship programme, with the first year having communities/cultural groups allowed to present only South African classics. “This helps them to ground their work in South African theatre-making culture, and in the 2nd year are allowed to create/write their own works. All the works are presented at the SAST during Mzanzi Fela Festival. Testimony to the success of the programme, is the appointment of the SAST Associate Artistic Director, who started from the MCO community group.”

One of the stand-outs on this year’s line-up is Lifted- Let the blind sing directed by Zakhele Mabena, which is a theatre musical production featuring a vibrant cast of 12 artists with different disabilities and a five-piece band consist of musicians such as The Ga-Rankuwa Requesters which is a sextet of blind people. They are accompanied by mainstream artists such as SnowWhite, Tshepo Nkadimeng, Khwezi Sondiyazi, Maira and Sebenzile “Sebeh” Kuzwayo, and the award-winning songstress Nhlanhla Dube as a narrator.

Grounded: The Soil. Image supplied

“Our mission calls for ‘an entertainment destination of choice for inspiration, education and socio-economic transformation which is underpinned by our unique, engaging and diverse artistic offering that encourages audience growth and an appreciation for the performing arts’. We are inclusive to all creatives in their diversity and different abilities,” reiterates Sekhabi.

For more info about the Mzansi Fela Festival CLICK HERE

Clement Gama10/26/2022
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6min440

Drumming genius Tumi Mogorosi will this Friday present Group Theory: Black Music for the people, with the people, at the People’s Theatre in the Jo’burg Theatre precinct. “I started out in a choir,” says Mogorosi, as he reflects on the significance of Black voices in concert.

“There’s this idea of mass, of a group of people gathering, which has a political implication and the operatic voice has both a presence and a capacity to scream, a capacity for affect. The instrumental group can sustain the intensity of that affect, and the chorus can go beyond improvisation, toward communal melodies that everyone can be a part of.”
If there is what is called genre, the political signature that Mogorosi’s Group Theory: Black Music installs, is an aesthetic that blurs this fixture, this category, this fuss. Mogorosi speaks to the signs of the times by way of critical takes, responses, diagnosis, and perpetual questioning. In this upcoming performance, Mogorosi and his ensemble are coming together to make an offering.

Mogorosi offers reflective encounters of black study in communion and assembly with the audience. This gathering is about taking a journey together and pausing to reflect, taking in what is offered, digesting, and then moving forward to a destination unknown. By inhabiting the theatre as a space, Mogorosi invites us to be part of the ensemble, to bear witness to the album not only in a live setting but with new ears, in silence. This is the currency of generativity, an experiment that provides “extra” — the lyrical application, the exit of the whole that is genre; that is, the political re-reading of the work of art. We are invited, therefore, to come and absorb together, in silence and joy — black study.

The album is in lineage with the black radical leanings of the South African songbook and tradition. Worth noting, also, is its explicit resonance which bears the stamp of what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney refer to as “black study” The work of an ensemble is what Mogorosi offers, and that is why the titling is apt — Group Theory: Black Music.
The album carries traces of Amiri Baraka’s robust but tender communal thought. Mogorosi’s titling critiques the very idea of individuation, and calls for the invitation of the common project. It is only in the context of the ensemble that the common project can be discerned. By way of gathering, the album, as a site of study in a theatre setting, will be a performance that is not in the name of the event but the continued project.

Here, in anticipation, and thus through the protocols of black study, the marked barrier of what is the stage and the auditorium will be blurred. In the invitation of communally sharing, Group Theory: Black Music gestures at making possible the aural experience as a whole bodily sensorium. By pointing towards deep listening, this is an invitation to be in the realm of silence. Mogorosi and the ensemble speak in the name of this silence — by fulfilling the liberatory impulse of this long black radical tradition. The music that erupts, that chants and speaks and weeps from this silence, is what will be shared.

Click HERE for tickets

Clement Gama03/10/2022
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6min3760

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.

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14min5752

The infatuation this generation has with spirituality is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Be it heeding the calling yok’thwasa, the obsession with astrology or numerology- the youngins need their chakras activated. So it’s more imperative to have spiritually astute artists like Sibusile Xaba now, than any other time. Much like in the 1960s and ’70s when the world was politically charged; the role of a Fela Kuthi and a Bob Marley was quite significant during that period.

“Ku balulekile to connect with the Creator. For me that’s the ultimate. Even ukuthwasa and the vibe that’s in the air right now, it’s a sign that people are trying to find themselves,” says Xaba.

For him, people are tracing back steps of who they are, beyond religion, faith or belief but to a time when spirituality was the way of living. “…it’s before things were documented or before the human race was separated into nations, there was a way of living which didn’t necessarily have a set process of connecting to the Creator. There wasn’t a need to go to church and connect with a middle man, be it Jesus Christ or Muhammad or anyone, to get closer to Umdali. We were one with the Creator. The disconnection and confusion came about when the mind was activated; that you must believe or have faith in something, and no longer your will. It’s now a process justified by names that mould it,” the artist from KwaZulu-Natal says.

HEALING THE PEOPLE: Artist Sibusile Xaba on stage with Neftali on the right. Photo by Sip The Snapper
HEALING THE PEOPLE: Artist Sibusile Xaba on stage with Naftali on the right. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Xaba is pleased with this generation’s insistence on connecting to the Creator and believes this will help remove divisions brought by tribes, nations and race. “The Zulu nation will say they are the greatest in the South, in Mali they’ll also says they are the greatest, in Egypt, in Ethiopia they’ll say the same thing…so there’s something amiss here…and even when you come to spirituality, you find that some people think they are superior or more gifted than others but the Creator gave us all gifts and they’re all the same. You have the gift to heal self because you’re connected to the Creator. Whether it’s telepathy, prophesy all those things. Now they just have words, but before it was the way,” the artists says.

Alone in a Braamfontein bookstore, The Commune, Sibusile Xaba and I sit post his intimate performance at The Forge just a few minutes ago. The performance was to promote his new album Ngiwu Shwabada which was released the day before, on Valentine’s Day.

He looks a normal civilian now with his locks down, wearing chino pants and a simple black T-shirt and a pair of sneakers- as oppose to minutes ago on stage when he had ankle shakers above his mbatata sandals, with his lower body covered only by cloth and had a dashiki on, dreads tied back, with guitar in hand. It’s akin to seeing Superman without his suite and cape, uClark Kent nje. But there’s a difference. Sibusile Xaba doesn’t have a moniker to hide behind and despite the apparel, he remains Sibusile Xaba with the same message as that fella on stage. His underlying message? 1Luv.

Artist Sibusile Xaba at The Forge in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
Artist Sibusile Xaba at The Forge in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“…let’s practice uku thandana, uku bambana, ukuxhasana, it’ll go a long way. I know you’re thinking ‘ai lo mjita udlala isiginci, maku nguye ngabo one love, one love…but no, it’s the power we have inside, we have forgotten what we have within and if we were to take that out, the world would transform,” says Xaba, calmly sharing his philosophy with the audience between his performance.

The one love phrase is a simple one, but it’s the ultimate truth in that we’re all creation made by the Creator- it is truth that he stands on, which helps cut through bullshit that polarizes humanity. Despite the assortment of energies in his audience, the effect of Sibusile’s music is the same, it’s calming. “Ah we’re just messengers mfowethu, it’s not us, and we’re just here to share what we hear, with a pure heart,” he humbly says. Sibusile shared the stage with Naftali, who he says contributed to his current album.

It’s puzzling that he only has two projects, the first one being Open Letter to Adoniah which came to him through dreams.  “It was just so natural and so peaceful you know…eDNA yayo didn’t have any negativity, so I just welcomed it.”

He speaks casually about how music from his previous album came about. “Kodwa why is it a thing, because we dream always. I think for creatives that happens a lot, even for you as a writer I’m sure things happen subliminally or things might feel like déjà vu or a vision. For me it was quite normal, the only thing I didn’t understand was that it happened izintsuku z’landelana.”

Ngiwu Shwabada is a continuation of the same modus operandi. “I was telling usista daar ku Jazzuary ukuthi now that I practice this [receiving music through dreams] I get different dreams saying different things and it’s not like now yonke into eng’zwayo ngi zoyenza ingoma, you understand. Le ye ngoma iyazisho. It’s like someone whispers into my ear.”

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Sibusile Xaba at The Forge in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Sibusile Xaba at The Forge in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

He tells me he’s delved deeper in this project, than he did with the 2017 Open Letter to Adoniah. “I understand ukuthi you have to connect to the universe and listen. By being still you can listen and hear things that the polluted ear wouldn’t necessarily hear.”

The sophomore 12 track album was recorded last year in Paris, France. It’s a beautiful body of work that takes one to so many places, all at once. The last track on the album is an 18 minute collaboration with Shabaka Hutchings, titled Phefumla. Sibusile’s scatting on the track is like a conversation between him and Hutchings’s saxophone. There’s also a song paying homage to his mentor, Madala Kunene on the album. “Ai mfwethu I was so scared to play that song,” he tells me cracking in laughter. “..I played it for him and he’s like ‘hai, yaz mina ang’yizwa le ngoma’ and he’s so honest about it,” says Xaba, of Kunene’s response to Tribute to Bafo.

Sibusile is part of a growing community of black creatives who share ideas, who seem to be conscious of those who came before them and who understand the importance of unity among black creatives, from all around the world. The likes of Thandi Ntuli, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Thabang Tabane, Musa Mashiane, Nduduzo Makhatini and plenty others.  “There’s a serious community of Africans across the globe and it’s beautiful bra wami. Kats are so united man, stretching themselves, working together and sharing contacts. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than being selfish and keeping everything to yourself. It’s powerful.”

It must be that 1Luv spreading its roots.

Download and listen to Ngiwu Shwabada here.

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5min3230

PRIOR to jetting out the country last week for the NYC Winter JazzFest, Nduduzo Makhathini likened the festival to umsamu, where the spirits of Jazz greats who’ve inspired him and continue to do so, dwell. And one spirit that continues to inspire him, is that of the late Zim Ngqawana who Makhathini was part of his Zimology Quartet the last time he played at the NYC Winter JazzFest in 2008 at the Knitting Factory.

Sharing knowledge with the audience during his performance at The Blue Note Jazz Club, Makhathini said “Thank you so much…there’s so many things that one could say, but I think what I have in my heart now is just one word, gratitude.  I think there’s something special that happens, especially towards redefining what the anthology or cosmology of what an African people is about. And what I find to be very essential, is the idea or gathering,  rituals or the coming together. We believe that when we come together, our ancestors are sort of with us and are enticed in that way .”

Nduduzo Makhathini on stage at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club. From Nduduzo Makhathini’s Facebook.

Makhathini played Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds Project at the iconic Jazz Club last night, alongside a fine ensemble of musicians who complimented him. He had Burniss Travis on Double Bass, Nasheet Waits on the drums, Aaron Burnett on Tenor Sax, Logan Richardson on Alto Sax and New York based South African Trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane. The latter three made up the horn section in the centre of the stage on Monday night in New York.

Makhathini at The Blue Note Jazz Club

The ensemble only had their first rehearsal on Sunday, literally a day before taking to stage, but from the videos shared on social media, their chemistry was on par with their musicality.  They performed before husband and wife duo, The Baylor Project.

The JazzFest is a weeklong festival which takes place in several locations around New York. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the festival attracts some of the finest musicians from around the globe to the Big Apple, all in the love of Jazz. Makhathini is also in New York with members of the Kaya FM team that includes station boss Greg Maloka, hosts Brenda Sisane and Collin Kgari.

The Blue Note Jazz Club is an abode of Jazz because of its rich history. It first opened its doors in 1981, hosting the genre’s masters; The likes of Sarah Vaughan, McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Lionel Hampton are some prominent names which often frequented the club.

Makhathini’s appearance at the Blue Note Jazz Club received praise from his industry peers, including percussionists Azah and Tumi Mogorosi, writer Natalia Molebatsi, fashion designer Bathini Kowane and his life partner, singer songwriter Omagugu Makhathini.


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