Books: New biography pays homage to SA jazz legend

2015-03-08 12:14

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Beyond being just another genre, jazz has, in many ways, been a soundtrack to poignant experiences in South Africa’s history and politics. Award-winning writer and journalist Percy Mabandu explores the significance of the genre in his new book, Yakhal’ Inkomo.

“I’ve always had an urge to document these creative contributions. Besides, jazz is my religion. So the decision to write a book is not unlike that of a pilgrim deciding to perform an act of sacred service for the objects of his adoration. It’s an act of thanksgiving to the music and the men and women through whom it came to us,” he explains.

The book is named after a well-known jazz tune. When it was recorded in 1968, it became synonymous with apartheid politics.

Yakhal’ Inkomo explores the life and work of the song’s writer, legendary saxophonist Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi.

“Jazz music is the democratic process incarnate. It demands strict collaboration, but also rewards great individuality, like democracy.

“It has also consistently been the music hated by dictators throughout history,” explains Mabandu.

Yakhal’ Inkomo is written in the style of creative nonfiction, which for Mabandu was a necessary style choice to keep the focus on the facts of Ngozi’s life, rather than elements of fiction. The influence of his work as a journalist helped him balance facts and creative elements.

“The book is an act of coming of age for me as a writer and journalist working with the subject. I needed the project to test and push against my limits.”

True to the content of the book, the prelaunch reading will be an evening of live reading and jazz.

Mabandu will include excerpts from the book, interspersed with live jazz performances by a quartet led by SA Music Awards-nominated drummer Tumi Mogorosi.

>> The prelaunch reading takes place at The Orbit in Braamfontein, Joburg, at 8.30pm tonight. Tickets are R120 and available at the venue.

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