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NEW ENTRY: Nduduzo Makhathini!



























Nduduzo Makhathini

Over the course of his eight previous albums, perhaps what one can learn from the career of pianist, composer, and producer Nduduzo Makhathini is that an artist has achieved a tremendous breakthrough when they can tell a story so layered that its reach is limitless. The story continues with Makhathini’s remarkable ninth album, and his Blue Note Records debut, Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds.

Makhathini grew up in the lush and rugged hillscapes of umGungundlovu in South Africa, a peri-urban landscape in which music and ritual practices were symbiotically linked. The area is significant historically as the site of the Zulu king Dingane kingdom between 1828 and 1840. It’s important to note that the Zulu, in fact the African warrior code, is deeply reliant on music for motivation and healing. This deeply embedded symbiosis is key to understanding Makhathini’s vision as a jazz man.

The role of the church can also not be ignored. Makhathini is said to have hopped from church to church in his younger days, in search of only the music. “I found the sermons to be a bit boring, to say the least,” he said, telling the BBC the story of “There’s Another Church Up The Road,” a track off his 2014 album Mother Tongue.

There has also been a long list of jazz elders Makhathini has imbibed from. “I think ubab’ [Bheki] Mseleku grew up listening to the same kind of music I grew up listening to, having come from KwaZulu-Natal,” he said. “Izangoma and all the different rituals that would have come with their repertoires. He was the most natural influence that I first heard.” He also mentions the likes of Moses Molelekwa who died young “but his contribution was so big,” especially in terms of wrestling against the strictures of genre. “ubab’Abdullah [Ibrahim] also contributes in defining African jazz piano,” said Makhathini. “He has written so much music and we grew up listening to it.”


NEW ENTRY: Nduduzo Makhathini!

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