Prodigy flying solo

2010-03-27 00:00

HAVING travelled the world, shared the stage and collaborated with old hands in music for many years, Vusi Mkhize has fulfilled his recording dream of many years.

Born in Hammarsdale more than 40 years ago, Mkhize first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and strummed it until he found a resonant chord.

Unlike many budding guitarists who were introduced to the instrument by first playing a guitar made of fish line and a five-litre tin, Mkhize (43) was fortunate to be exposed to the instrument for his rudimentary training as his family had a band.

Even his search for the right chord was not so difficult because his grandfather, Themba Nzuza, was a guitar wizard for the famous umbaqanga group the Soul Bro­thers. He played the role of a mentor to the young Mkhize.

“I just fell in love with the instrument and I just chose it among many, because I liked the sound it was making as my grandfather played it,” says Mkhize.

He kept on strumming and plucking along when his family band rehearsed until he comple­ted matric. He then went to Umlazi township where he joined a gospel group called Afro Praises.

“When the group split up, I went to play for Maveshe, which later also broke up. I moved on to Clermont [near Pinetown] where I joined a band called Thatha. When it also disintegrated, I decided to start my own band in 1996 and I called it Sakhula,” reminisces the talented Mkhize.

He said the band was lucky because in 1998 it was sponsored by South African Airways to tour China for a month, as the airline was launching itself in that country.

“Upon returning, I decided to hone my playing techniques further by enrolling at Central Johannesburg College for a three-year music course. I did this under the tutelage of my long-time role mo­del Bheki Khoza, who was a lecturer there. I like Bheki Khoza’s playing style and I wanted to blend it with mine.”

Furthering music education was not the only reason Mkhize followed the exodus of many KwaZulu-Natal artists to the City of Gold; he went there also with the purpose of networking and exploring with different music artists, and, more importantly, to find a recording deal with any interes­ted music company.

While he was there he staved off poverty by playing in bands of people such as jazz diva Gloria Bosman, gospel exponent Deborah Fraser, and Khaya and the Afro Tenors.

“My being there made me grow because I was able to experiment [with] different music genres with many seasoned music exponents,” he said.

Knocking on different doors in search of a recording partner drew a blank, although he had accumulated enough of a repertoire of his own. He was not fazed by this development, but decided to return to this province where, in late 2008, he was eventually sponsored by the Hugo Bartel Trust for the Arts to record his first full length solo album. The 14-track amaThongo was the result.

Mkhize’s album is a mix of virtually all different African music influences, including afro jazz, traditional music and maskandi, and it transcends all generations and racial divides.

Mkhize has shared the stage with artists such Caiphus Semenya, Sipho Gumede, and Salif Keita in Nigeria, to name but a few.

He has also collaborated with the music greats from many parts of the world, including Youssou N’Dour, Kirk Frankling, Shirley Ceaser, Ray Phiri, Oliver Mtukudzi, Dan Charboli, Samita Mulando from Uganda, and Irani guitarist Javid Asvari.

Accompanying him on the album are seasoned artists such as keyboard player Arthur Tshabalala, drummer Kwazi Shange, percussionist Tlale Makhene, bassist Mandla Zikalala, saxophone player Jeff Nomvete and singers Zethu Joyisa, Nelly Kunene and the late Mondli Ndlovu, who died late last year.

Mkhize will be launching the album at the Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown tomorrow. Joining him on stage will be Wake Mahlobo on drums, Mthobisi Mthalane and Nathi Shongwe on keyboards, Mazwakhe Gumede on bass, Zama Ndosi and Mbali Majola and Sfiso on backing vocals.

Luna Paige, a Cape Town-based musician, who will also be launching her album Wonderful Life, serves as a curtain raiser for Mkhize.

Jazz-famed Kevin Gibson on drums, Schalk Joubert on bass guitar and Willem Moller on guitar will join Paige on stage. The Rainbow Restaurant is at 23 Stanfield Lane, Pinetown. Doors open at noon and tickets are R30 before the day of the show and R40 at the door. The number to call for further details is 031 702 9161. Bring some extra cash for CDs.

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