In order of appearance at this year's Festival ...
McCoy Mrubata and Paul Hanmer
Emanuele Cisi, Hein van de Geyn, Dave Ledbetter and Jonno Sweetman
Darius Brubeck and Mike Rossi
Afrika Mkhize and Salim Washington
The Unity Band
Lumanyano Unity Mzi
Florence Chitacumbi and Mino Cinelu
MCCOY MRUBATA Born in 1959 in Cape Town’s historic Langa township, South Africa. Reedman McCoy Mrubata grew up with the sounds of African music: the soulful hymns of the Zion Church, the chants and rhythms of traditional healers and the brassy jive of the Merry Macs band who rehearsed opposite his home. When schooling became impossible in the fiery aftermath of the 1976 uprising, the young McCoy then playing flute studied informally under Langa greats like Madoda Gxabeka, Winston Ngozi , the Ngcukanas, Ezra and Duke, Blackie Tempi and Robert Sithole. By the early 1980s he was playing in cover bands like Fever, Touch , Airborne and Vukani, from there he moved to crossover outfit Louis and the Jive. In 1987 McCoy was spotted by bandleader Sipho Hotstix Mabuse who helped him make Joburg his home. In 1988 he joined PJ Powers band and also that year McCoy was sported by veteran producer Koloi Lebona who offered him a recording deal with a British based record company Zomba Records the same record company had produced music for, amongst others: Jonathan Butler and Billy Ocean. McCoy’s debut album, Firebird was released the following year. In 1989 he formed Brotherhood, which also included guitarist Jimmy Dludlu pianist Nhlanhla Magagula and Lucas Khumalo and later Moses Molelekwa. In 1990 the band won the Gilbey’s Music for Africa competition. In 1992 he began touring with Hugh Masekela’s Lerapo, alongside guitarist Lawrence Matshiza and pianist, the late Moses Molelekwa among others. He also created his own bands, Cape to Cairo and McCoy and Friends. In the mid 1990s, he made the first of a series of albums as leader for the independent Sheer Sound label: Tears of Joy. The personnel of Friends, including pianist Paul Hanmer, bassist Andre Abrahamse and trombonist Jabu Magubane among others have formed a consistent team of collaborators for McCoy. Since those days, more albums have followed: Phosa Ngasemva, Hoelykit, Face the Music which won the 2003 South African Music Award in the Traditional Jazz category and Icamagu Livumile which won the same award in 2005, as well as the compilation CD – Best of the Early Years. Brasskap Sessions Volume 1 won the 2008 award. In addition, McCoy has collaborated with a dazzling array of South African jazz players, and with overseas artists such as Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. He has been involved in drama, creating scores for South African productions about journalist Bloke Modisane and saxophone legend Kippie Moeketsi, and in 2001 starring in a Norwegian production based on the life of John Coltrane. He has also created what he calls the Young Friends: a collaboration with the next generation of South African jazzmen. McCoy’s other projects Include Kulturation a duo-led album with pianist Wessel van Rensburg exploring new interpretations of tunes from the African and Afrikaans communities. This project blends together familiar tunes from the Xhosa and Zulu cultures with Afrikaans folk music tunes fusing these into contemporary versions of local South Africa music. Vivid Africa, is another collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Greg Georgiadis, using instruments like oudh and bouzouki alongside saxophones to explore the musical spices of the East African coast. McCoy was also a member of a super band Sheer All Stars which consisted of some of the best musicians In SA Jazz : the late Sipho Gumede,Errol Dyers, Paul Hanmer,Frank Pako, Wessel van Rensburg and Louis Mhlanga. They recorded three albums; Indibano, Live at the Blues Room and Dance With Me. McCoy and his long time friend Paul Hanmer recently released a CD that was recorded live In 2009 at Alte Kirche Boswil, Switzerland during the Kulak Jazz festival. In January 2011 he collaborated with Norwegian musicians In project called Indibano and they performed at the Nordic Black Theatre In Oslo. McCoy also conducted the South African Youth Jazz Band this year In June/July at the Grahamstown festival and they also performed In August at the Joy Of Jazz In Newtown JHB South Africa. McCoy also produces, teaches and spends a lot of time, as he puts it, simply being a family man. “My ambition is to keep our kind of music alive here at home. Everything I do is about linking the now to the community I came from all those years back in Langa, and sharing my South African experiences through music with the rest of the continent and the world.” McCoy now lives in Johannesburg with his family. He is married to Zodwa and they have four kids, two boys and two girls. Website: http://mccoymrubata.com/
PAUL HANMER Born in Cape Town in 1961, Paul Hanmer began classical piano and theory lessons in 1970. After a brief period as a student at the University of Cape Town, Hanmer left to work with guitarist Paul Petersen. In 1987 Hanmer moved to Johannesburg where he was influenced by bands such as Sakhile and Bayete. Later Hanmer formed Unofficial Language with Ian Herman (percussion and drums) and Peter Sklair (electric bass). The trio recorded their first album “Primal Steps” in 1994 and a second album, “Move Moves” in 1996. Hanmer’s first album as a bandleader, “Trains to Taung” was released in 1997 to critical acclaim. Since then he has recorded five more albums: “Window to Elsewhere” (1998), “Playola” (2000), “Naivasha” (2002), “Water & Lights” (2005) “Accused N° 1: Nelson Mandela” (2006). “The Essential Paul Hanmer” (2008) is a compilation of the above-mentioned albums. Hanmer has recorded with Tananas, Miriam Makeba, Ray Phiri, McCoy Mrubata and Pops Mohamed and formed part of Tony Cox’s ‘Cool Friction Band’. In 1999 he performed and recorded with Sheer All Stars, and produced Gloria Bosman’s debut album, “Tranquility”. Hanmer has also written a string quartet for the Sontonga Quartet and a Clarinet quintet for Robert Pickup (Zurich Opera). In addition he has composed a suite of duets for double bass and cello for Leon Bosch (Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields). Website: https://paulhanmer.wordpress.com/
EMANUELE CISI Born in Torino, Italy, in 1964, self-taught musician, he’s one of the most representative voices on tenor saxophone in today’s international jazz scene. His unique tone, along with a deep knowledge of the tradition mixed with a personal taste for composition, are became a landmark for jazz lovers. Since he won the Musica Jazz magazine critic’s prize in Italy as New Best Talent back in 1995, he recorded 12 cd’s as a leader or co-leader and more than 50 as a sideman, for labels based in Italy, France, Belgium, Japan and U.S.A. During his career, he played and recorded with many great artists like Clark Terry, Jimmy Cobb, Albert Tootie Heat, Walter Booker, Joe Chambers, Ron Carter, Joe Chambers, Nat Adderley, Jack McDuff, Jimmy Owens, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Adam Nussbaum, Billy Cobham, Joey Calderazzo, Kenny Wheleer, Aldo Romano, Daniel Humair, Enrico Pieranunzi, Enrico Rava, Paolo Fresu, Sting and many many others. He has toured extensively in Europe, USA, China, Oceania, Russia, Mexico and South America. In spring 2012, the north american première of the Detroit Torino Urban Jazz Project (a multimedia project he founded in and co-leaded since 2006 with the Detroit born tenor player Chris Collins) took place at the Detroit Orchestra Hall along with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In the last years he also recorded and toured extensively around Europe as a jazz soloist with the baroque ensemble “La Venexiana”, considered as a world class interpreter of Monteverdi’s music. He’s visiting more and more the U.S. scene, and his new trio project, recorded in New York, has been released in October 2013 for the prominent jazz label Maxjazz. His last cd, featuring Eric Reed on piano, was released in January 2016. Since 2013 he conceived and promoted a collaboration between the Conservatory of Torino and the Juilliard Jazz School of New York, through workshops, concerts, students exchanges. In October 2016 he has been invited to take a lecture at Juilliard. In 2015 and 2016 he has been voted best Italian tenor saxophone player on the eminent Jazzit magazine. He’s full professor of Jazz Saxophone at the Conservatory of Torino since 2012. Website: http://www.emanuelecisi.it/
HEIN VAN DE GEYN HEIN VAN DE GEYN (The Netherlands - 1956) was born into a musical family and played violin from the early age of 8. As a teenager he played guitar in local rock bands, but also had an interest in Jazz, being the son of an excellent amateur jazz saxophonist. He picked up the electric bass in his late teens, and with his first jazz sextet he won the award for being "best soloist" at the Laren Jazz Competition in 1979. He has been playing jazz professionally ever since he finished his studies at the conservatories of Tilburg and Rotterdam (where he was the first in the country to graduate with a jazz degree). Hein lived in the US for several years in the early eighties, working with John Abercrombie, Larry Schneider, Larry Vuchovich, Julian Priester, John Handy and many others. The years in San Francisco, where he literary played 30 gigs per month for a few years, proved to be crucial and a great learning experience.
After his return to Europe Hein established himself as one of the most sought after bass players in Europe. His playing can be heard on some 100 recordings. He was the bass player with Philip Catherine for many years and recorded 9 CD's with him. In 1987 Hein toured and recorded in Japan with Chet Baker. Quite some concerts throughout Europe followed, and in fact Hein played on the last concert of Chet Baker in Rotterdam in 1988. During this year Hein started to play with, and arrange for Dee Dee Bridgewater, with whom he would perform at most of the important festivals and stages in Europe (Montreux, Antibes, Vienne, Berlin, Northsea, Nice, London ....) as well as in the USA (Carnegie Hall, Village Vanguard, Montreal, Newport Festival...) and Japan (Keystone Corner, Blue Note). After three albums and numerous tours and performances Hein and Dee Dee's paths seperated in 1996 since Hein wanted to pursue his own career as a leader. In July 1990 Hein made the first album under his own name; a duo with Lee Konitz. Several duo tours followed, and they recorded again in 2007. In 1994 Hein created his group BASELINE with John Abercrombie and Joe LaBarbara. This trio recorded several albums and toured all over Europe. 1994 was also the year in which Hein co-founded the jazz label Challenge Jazz Records, for which he produced a large number of successful recordings. Three of them received an Edison for best Jazz recording of the year. In 1996 Hein started teaching at the Jazz department of the Royal conservatory in The Hague. In this year he also was awarded the prestigious Prins Bernhard Foundation Music Prize. He received this prize for his importance in the development of European Jazz as well as for his stimulating role as mentor and producer of many young musicians in Holland through his educational activities as well as through creating recording possibilities for them on his label Challenge Jazz. In 1998 Hein received the Bird Award of the North Sea Jazz Festival. In this year he was also elected as "Best European Acoustic Bass Player" by a referendum of the Belgian radios RTBF and VRT. During a sabbatical 6-month period spent in South Africa in 2001/2002 Hein started writing his "Comprehensive Bass Method". This extensive method on bass playing (950 pages) became available in 2007 and rapidly became the standard work for the double bass worldwide. From 2008 to 2010 Hein was the artistic manager of the Rotterdam Jazz Academy, part of Codarts, and was leading this internationally orientated school with great flair and enthusiasm. Over the last 15 years of Hein's active career he played regularly with the trio of Enrico Pieranunzi. He was also part of the trio that would play with Toots Thielemans till the very end of Toots' career, recording several CDs and a live DVD with him. In 2010 Hein decided to basically stop his career as a performing bassist and he moved with his family to South Africa to the idyllic village of Scarborough, near Cape Town, where he and his wife Cyrille ran a 4 star guest house for 6 years. During that period Hein created one of Cape Town's best loved bakeries: Cape Point Bakery in which a team of bakers create artisanal sourdough breads on a daily basis. Music remains quite central in his life through writing and teaching and the odd local concert. Hein has performed and recorded with many artists over the years. To name a few: Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Hargrove, Woody Shaw, Kenny Wheeler, Tom Harrell, Nat Adderley, Abbey Lincoln, Meredith d'Ambrosio, Marlena Shaw, Tony Bennett, Ivan Lins, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joao Bosco, Mark Murphy, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Ed Thigpen, Joe Labarbera, Alex Acuna, Elliot Zigmund, Idris Muhammad, Billy Hart, John Abercrombie, Leonardo Amuedo, Tal Farlow, Philip Catherine, Larry Coryell, Dave Pike, Toots Thielemans, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Michel Petrucciani, Enrico Pieranunzi, Barry Harris, Horace Silver, Danilo Perez, Junior Mance, Walter Davis Jr., Eliane Elias, Tete Montoliu, Mulgrew Miller, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, Horace Parlan, Jacki Byard, Slide Hampton, Bob Brookmeyer, Joe Lovano, Lee Konitz, Johnny Griffin, Benny Golson, Red Holloway, Charlie Rouse, Bobby Watson, Lew Tabackin, Gary Bartz, Archie Shepp, Rick Margitza, Charlie Mariano.... Website: https://www.baselinemusic.nl/
DAVE LEDBETTER Multi instrumentalist & well-known Cape Town Jazz vocalist, arranger & band leader, Dave Ledbetter is a musical wizard who has performed with South Africa’s top jazz musicians and across a number of genres. Dave’s original music is characterized by ‘socially conscious’ lyrics combined with jazz and folk melodies. Dave has played various festivals including the Robben Island Millennium Concert 1999 / 2000 alongside Manu Dibango, Jimmy Dludlu, Sibongile Khumalo, Miriam Makeba, Ray Phiri and Robbie Jansen. He also played on The North Sea Jazz Festival 2000 with Jimmy Dludlu and C Bass Collective. Dave has featured several times on the National Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, and was the man responsible for the music and madness of the Truly Fully Hey Shoo Wow band – a popular Cape Town combo. He has recorded 2 albums, and has appeared on countless others as a sought-after session guitarist and pianist. His new band, Dave Ledbetter and the Clearing has be featured on the 2011 Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
JONNO SWEETMAN Jonno is one of the most original and sensitive drummers on South Africa’s exploding music scene. His sound and approach attract attention wherever he plays and in whatever context he finds himself. Drumming is in his blood. His father, the late Robert Sweetman, was a great drummer who played professionally in the 60’s and 70’s. He was reluctant the first time Jonno asked him for a lesson, given the paternal association of drums with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Graciously putting aside his scepticism he gave the 13-year-old Jonno that lesson – and it all began. Having matriculated Jonno attained a diploma in Marketing at Varsity College in Port Elizabeth. He also completed a Trinity School of Music Grade 8 for drum kit with merit. Growing up in a small town there were few traditional opportunities to study music. This scarcity of formal influences turned out to be a contributing factor to his originality. As a teenager Jonno honed the skills of stamina, contextual awareness and the ability to react to a quickly changing environment as much on his surfboard (he competed at provincial level) as behind his traps. His introduction to the great adventure of jazz occurred in the company of equally wide-eyed and wide-eared small town musicians who, in the absence of peer competition, revelled in the variety, freedom and discipline of the form that they found in the recordings of the masters - past and present. In his early twenties Jonno had the opportunity to travel and was able to take lessons from some of the greatest drummers in the world. Erik Smith (Norway), Jeff Ballard (USA) and Kevin Gibson (SA) were some of the highlights for him. He remains very committed to self-study and is constantly on the lookout for new study material. In the decade-plus since, Jonno has worked with New York-based saxophonist Sam Thomas, US guitarist and celebrated proponent of Thelonious Monk’s music, Gary Wittner, as well as trumpeter Gordon Vernick (US) and innovative saxophonist Nils Berg (Sweden). He has also played and recorded with top South African jazz artists including Buddy Wells, Marcus Wyatt, Mark Fransman, Herbie Tsoaeli, Rus Nerwich, Jason Reolon, Alvin Dyers, Shannon Mowday and Feya Faku to name a few. Jonno is currently a member of the Kyle Shepherd trio, Reza Khota Quartet and Buddy Wells quartet as well as the Albert Frost Trio. He performed at the 2008 through 2014 Cape Town International Jazz Festivals, the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival (Grahamstown) and Joy of Jazz (Johannesburg) and toured Europe with Jonathan Crossley in 2009, 2010 and 2012. The Kyle Shepherd Trio (the iconoclastic Shepherd was Standard Bank youth jazz artist in 2014) recently toured Europe, China and Canada playing at world class festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival and Tianjin International Jazz Festival. The group’s growing importance as a representative of the new voice of postmodern Africa was underlined by their invitation – along with Benin-born New York -based luminary Lionel Loueke – to play and record under the title Sound Portraits from Contemporary Africa for the SWR NEWJazz Meeting 2016. Previous participants have included Roscoe Mitchell, Johnny Dyani, Kenny Wheeler and Bobby McFerrin. Displaying a characteristic openness to all authentic musical forms, Jonno also performs with Albert Frost , Gerald Clark and occasionally Dan Patlansky -three of South Africa’s best-established blues artists. He recorded with Clark on his 2016 release “The Golden Goose” and with Frost on “The Wake Up”. The Wake Up was awarded best rock album of 2016 at the South African Music Awards. The logistically challenging choice to survive as a full-time musician in the city of Cape Town has given Jonno the opportunity to work with all these great musicians. In response, he is growing in his skill and finding deeper resonance with his art form every day. He is also a gifted teacher with a decade of part-time drum tuition experience. Being largely self-taught has inspired him to develop some of his own unique teaching methods. He has given workshops at Marshall Music, Paul Bothners Music and UCT Music College – leaving participants motivated and deeply inspired. Website:https://www.jonnosweetman.com/
DARIUS BRUBECK Born in San Francisco in 1947, jazz pianist and composer Darius Brubeck grew up in the artistic milieu of his famous father Dave and has enjoyed a lifetime of varied international experience as bandleader, composer, teacher and broadcaster. The Brubeck family moved to Connecticut in 1960 where Darius attended high school and graduated cum laude from Wesleyan University where he studied ethnomusicology and history of religion. He also holds an M. Phil. from Nottingham University where he was a Visiting Fellow in Music in 1999-2000. After graduation in 1969 and some experiments with different kinds of music, Darius was ushered into the international jazz scene in the Seventies as a member of Two Generations of Brubeck and The New Brubeck Quartet (Dave, Darius, Chris and Dan Brubeck) under his father’s leadership but also continued playing intermittently with his own groups. He married Catherine, an expat South African living in New York, and moved to Durban, South Africa in 1983, where he initiated the first degree course in Jazz Studies offered by an African university. Together, they founded and developed the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal six years later,where, as Professor of Jazz Studies, Darius taught until 2005. He has also served as a Fulbright visiting professor in Romania and Turkey. Darius Brubeck and Afro Cool Concept, which featured some of South Africa’s premier musicians, played throughout southern Africa, Europe, and the USA and recorded for the Sheer Sound label. He also collaborated with virtuoso bansuri player, Deepak Ram, using the name Gathering Forces for ‘world-music’ concerts. From 1989 onward, Brubeck led staff-student groups representing his university and South Africa on official tours, attending conferences and giving workshops and concerts in Europe, North and South America, Turkey, and Thailand. Moving to the United Kingdom on retirement from full-time teaching in 2006, Darius now leads the London based Darius Brubeck Quartet, which has now an international following and since 2010 also tours annually with his brothers Chris and Dan in Brubecks Play Brubeck . Darius and his wife/manager Catherine return to South Africa every year where he remains an honorary research professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Darius regularly appears at academic conferences related to jazz studies, presenting papers and joining panels. The Brubecks were jointly awarded a writing grant in 2017 by STIAS (Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study) and again in 2019. The couple are writing a book about their jazz life in South Africa during the turbulent and hope-filled period leading up to the first democratic election in 1994. Darius has composed and arranged across a range of styles from string trio to full orchestra, as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and others. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra commissioned Darius and Zim Ngqawana, to set extracts from speeches by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to music, read by Morgan Freeman. In 2005, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded him a residency as a composer at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy. ‘For Lydia’ was selected for the 2013-2014 Grade 5 Piano Syllabus by the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music and the 2018-2019 Grade VI syllabus includes his ‘Tugela Rail.’ The theme of cultural diplomacy figured large in 2018 and will continue to build this year. A WNET/BBC4 TV co-production titled ‘The Jazz Ambassadors,’ about jazz diplomacy during the Cold War featured an extensive interview with Darius. (https://vimeo.com/255776114) Darius went to Poland in February 2018 where he played with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as a guest and returned in March with his Quartet for a concert on the 60th anniversary of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s famous 1958 world tour. (Incidentally, Szczecin, Poland is where Darius made his un-planned stage debut as an 10-year old accompanying his parents.) The DBQ returned to Poland again in November 6 – 18 for a tour of the cities visited on the original 1958 tour by his father’s quartet. (A ‘live in Poland’ CD will be forthcoming.) A film crew shadowed this tour and will follow Darius and Catherine to South Africa this year, making a documentary about his life as an unofficial jazz ambassador. DARIUS BRUBECK and MIKE ROSSI Darius Brubeck and Mike Rossi have performed many times together and will do so again in South Africa where they will appear as a duo for the 6th SAJE Jazz Festival in April and as Darius Brubeck and Friends at the Olympia Bakery in Kalk Bay. Mike has often been a featured member of the Darius Brubeck Quartet, recorded two CDs, ‘For Lydia’ and ‘Two and Four/To and Fro, with the regular rhythm section of Matt on bass and Wesley on drums and performed in the USA and South Africa under the banner of “Brubecks Play Brubeck” with Darius, Chris and Dan Brubeck. Rossi and Brubeck recently authored Odd Times: Uncommon Etudes for Uncommon Time Signatures dedicated to playing in odd time signatures and made an instructional video series together available through Music Gurus. They have performed together in the UK, USA, South Africa, Germany, Romania and Italy where Mike tours and teaches on an annual basis. Darius and Mike sometimes form an American/Italian quartet that has played at the Ancona, Arcevia and Jesi Jazz Festivals and hope to add other Italian destinations. Website:https://www.dariusbrubeck.com/
MIKE ROSSI saxophonist - educator - composer American born, Rossi is Professor in Jazz and Woodwinds at the SA College of Music, University of Cape Town. His achievements include numerous recordings, and international stage appearances as leader, soloist, and sideman with Tony Bennett, Dave Liebman, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, George Russell, Clark Terry, Alessio Menconi and Darius Brubeck amongst others. He is an exceptional saxophone and woodwind player, and an artist for Rampone & Cazzani Handmade Italian saxophones. He has performed around the globe in small and large ensembles and gives workshops on South African jazz worldwide. As a composer and performer he has appeared on numerous jazz and classical recordings, and has written a series of method books on jazz improvisation, with translations in other languages, along with many compositions, all published by Advance Music and Schott Music. His sextet The Mike Rossi Project has performed at the JazzKif Jazz Festival (DRC), Cape Town International Jazz Festival (2014 and in 2018 featuring trombonist John Fedchock), Joy of Jazz Festival, Grahamstown Jazz Festival and has won two Concerts SA Music Mobility awards, with tours to KZN and the Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth and East London). He served as SAJE President from 2008 to 2016. Website: www.mikerossijazz.com
AFRIKA MKHIZE At age 11, Mkhize was enrolled at the Funda Centre Music School in Soweto to study classical piano. At only 15, he was accepted at the National School of the Arts to further his classical musical studies, and in 1999, he enrolled at Pretoria Technikon to further his interest in Jazz, Composition and Arranging. During his school years, Mkhize was involved in arranging music for small ensembles and performing live with musicians in the Johannesburg jazz circuit. After completing his studies, Mkhize began working as a music producer, producing award-winning albums for Tlali Makhene, Themba Mkhize, Sibongile Khumalo, Kabelo from TKZ, Nokukhanya Dlamini and Miriam Makeba. “Afrika Mkhize represents the exciting new face of South African jazz,” said Alan Webster, National Arts Festival committee member for Jazz. “Steeped in South Africa’s musical heritage, he displays a fresh, international perspective that places South African jazz in a new perspective. He is a pianist with serious jazz chops who has the versatility to play music from across the spectrum, from African grooves to hip-hop to straight-ahead jazz, and in any company,” Webster added. He is currently scoring full Big Band Arrangements for his favourite pianist, the late Bheki Mseleku, in his honour.
SALIM WASHINGTON The story of jazz saxophonist-composer-scholar-activist Salim Washington paints a harlequin voyage in search of one’s roots. His parents were born and raised in the sharecropper plantations of Mississippi, met in Caperville, Tennessee, got married and moved to Detroit with hopes of a better life. His mother sewed at the Levi’s Jeans factory, and his father worked in construction and labor jobs. Although his mother prematurely passed away when he was twenty-one, Salim has careful memories of a selfless, courageous spirit who was fearless for her family. The gracious resilience of his father, who persevered to complete his education while working and raising a family, gave Salim the inspiration that he would later follow. As the first generation in his family to be born outside of the plantations, Salim was born in the housing projects in Memphis, Tennesee. The narrative of Salim’s exposure to music is a remarkable one. When his family moved to Detroit, they lived in the notorious “Black Bottom” area during the 1960-70’s Detroit riots. As a young boy in what he calls “one of the most violent neighborhoods in Detroit”, he was drafted into the neighborhood gang at the age of 9. The leader of the gang played the trumpet and, having a soft spot for this young boy, goaded him into learning to play. Salim became very proficient, even surpassing the leader. Noticing the boy’s potential, the leader excused him from the gang. Salim credits this gang leader to introducing him to the trumpet, his first musical instrument. The defining moment came in the 1970s after hearing John Coltrane in Exotica (Call Sonny) and Miles and Monk at Newport; “It was the most powerful, most intelligent and beautiful thing I have ever heard. It was about me and my experience in a much more elevated form than anything I have heard…it changed everything.” This stirred him to buy a saxophone with money from odd jobs. Salim was enlightened with the intelligence in Coltrane’s music, which also triggered the passion and emotion that he gets from church music and songs like Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. Often demoralized by teachers for his musical ideas and afflicted by racial and social discrimination in school, this was the much-needed affirmation to pursue music. Salim first entered Harvard in 1976 and subsequently dropped out to become a jazz musician. Over the next few years, he played in many towns and cities with several bands, including a traveling Chitlin circuit group. He also expanded into political activism, organizing protests against drug dealers in Roxbury, as well as working on support for the anti-Bakke decision and the Disinvestment movement from South Africa. He finally returned to Harvard in 1993 and completed his PhD in 2000, while still remaining active as a performer, writer, activist and family man. For Salim, the fascination with South Africa has been longstanding. It began with Gil Scott-Heron’s hit record, Johannesburg, about the aftermath of the 1976 riots in Soweto. The struggle was led by South African teenagers, and what impressed Salim was the physical resemblance with African Americans. As he investigated further, he found similarities in their culture, as well as in their social and political histories. Later he was introduced to the music of Chris McGregor, and learned more about South African jazz musicians in exile, such as Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani and many others; “I was just flabbergasted that there was a place where people played jazz at that advanced level.” He felt a visceral connection to this place, and hoped that one day he would make his way there to be closer to his roots, culture and people. It would take thirty-three years until Salim’s first visit to South Africa, when he was invited to teach at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2009. After returning to New York, he spent the next few years actively performing, writing and teaching while continuing to make visits to South Africa. In 2013, he became a full-time professor in the Music Department at UKZN. “This feels like home,” he reflects, “ This is home. I am home.” Salim continues to be a committed teacher, writer, speaker and performer in numerous solo, group and ensemble projects. He is also touring with the Eco-Music Big Band, a jazz ensemble mixing the music of Fred Ho and Cal Massey with political aspects. When he first met Fred Ho at Harvard in 1976, the two instantly became good friends, political comrades and musical collaborators. The two crossed paths again in 2000 when Fred reached out and asked Salim to join his Afro-Asian Music Ensemble. The pair would go on working together, playing and giving lectures as a scientific duo in numerous events. In 2012, they started the Scientific Soul Sessions, a collective for revolutionaries to build a soulful and scientific community. The Eco-Music Big Band is one of the many progenies from this effort of using art to inform politics and vice versa. Website:https://www.salimwashington.com/
THE UNITY BAND The Unity Band is comprised of Thandeka Dladla, Steve De Souza, Lilavan Gangen, Dylan Fine, Lonwabo Mafani, Ofenste Moshoetsi, Marco Maritz and Lumanyano Mzi. They are a young vibrant collective formed at UCT's South African College of Music. The band is a collection of Jazz, Fusion, Hip Hop, African and World Music. They recently reached the Top 5 in the annual espAfrika Young Legends Competition. They release their debut album FABRIC next month.
LUMANYANO UNITY MZI Lumanyano was born in Cape Town. His drumming career started at the age of six when he snuck out of his home and walked 15km to watch his fathers reggae band rehearse. Only to find that the drummer had not come to the rehearsal. It was on that day, where he amazed his father with his ability to play the drums and the music, he made his debut in the band. Lumanyano is largely a self-taught musician and became influenced by jazz and gospel music when he started playing at church at the age of 12. At the age of 14 he was already a professional session musician for local bands. He then went on to study Jazz Performance at the South African College of Music University of Cape Town. Lumanyano has toured and performed with local and international artists such as: Judy Boucher (UK), Dr. Gordon Vernick (USA), Luciano (Jam), Tonton David (FRA) Gentleman (Germany), Lutan Fyah (Jam), Dena DeRose (USA), Zoë Modiga, Sibongile Khumalo, Nomfundo Xaluva, Darryl Andrews Big Band, Judith Sephuma, Gloria Bosman with the University Stellenbosch Jazz Band and UCT Big Band to name a few. He continues to work as a session musician and performing artist. Collaborating with many local and international musicians and artists as well as performing in musical theatre. Website:https://www.unitymzi.com/
Legend is an understatement. Sit with master-of-all-trades Mino Cinélu in any café and more likely than not, a record will come on that he’s played on. Sting, Miles Davis, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, Marcus Miller, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Pat Metheny, Taylor Dane, Branford Marsalis, and Cassandra Wilson are just a tiny selection of the international pop and jazz stars that Mino has worked with since the 80’s. Whether playing percussion, drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, or singing, Mino brings his signature infectious personality full of warmth and joie de vivre, coupled with decades of intense study in a wide variety of styles from around the world — from the streets of Paris to the Mississippi delta to the Caribbean island of Martinique. He’s equally comfortable being the consummate accompanist as being the center of attention, and can command an extensive ensemble as well as performing his own breathtaking one-man-band show. Born in Paris to a French mother and a father from Martinique, Mino mainly taught himself, first on guitar and bass, then percussion and drums. Mino has released four albums under his own name, appeared on countless records as a sideman, and has composed several songs for film and television. His newest group has been playing clubs in New York City and is preparing to record its first album. Website:http://minocinelu.com/
Hailing from Neuchâtel, Florence Chitacumbi is the daughter of a Swiss mother and Angolan father. She constantly dances on the edge of this double origin, which has greatly influenced her life and music. Influenced by the music that her parents listened to, Chatacumbi’s style was further refined by the discoveries of sounds and experiences of Congolese and West Indian musicians, and the discovery of jazz through the voices of the great female performers. Chitacumbi has an extensive list of collaborations, concerts, meetings, exchanges and musical experiences, spanning from Brussels, Switzerland, Cameroon to China, to name a few. She has released four CD’s, Uniq (1995), 6th sense (2000), Crossed gaze (2006) and Rebels (2011). To give life to her projects, Chitacumbi says she surrounds herself with musicians who understand her musical sensitivities and whom also have substantive careers as individual artists.