Famous for 5 minutes – Incognito: A leap of faith

2014-06-02 12:00

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Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick and his acid jazz band, Incognito, are in the country after performing at this ­weekend’s DStv Delicious festival. Percy Mabandu called up the British music hero

This won’t be your first time in South Africa, will it?

I have a long history with your country. I love it. I first came to perform with Incognito at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in 2009. We had a great time with the crowd there.

You’ve also worked with a few South African musicians in the past. Tell me about that.

When I started Incognito and recorded our first album, Jazz Funk, in 1980, I had South Africans in the band. My horn section included two trumpeters, Peter Segona and Claude Deppa. They had come to London as part of Hugh Masekela’s touring band.

It was during apartheid, so they defected and stayed on as exiles.

They were really great musicians?...?I was honoured to be part of that. It was the start of my long relationship with South Africa. I also produced music for Thandiswa Mazwai on her first solo album, Zabalaza.

You’ve recently decided to launch yourself as a solo act. Why did it take 30 years?

[Chuckles] Well, I didn’t have the confidence until now. Besides, I had been working with capable singers who I thought could sing the songs better than I could. I had built a career as a producer for other people.

But I’ve always had a thought to do a solo project. So I decided to take a leap of faith and record an album as a solo artist. That is also the name of my album, Leap of Faith.

Has a solo album made your life more difficult in terms of having to spread yourself between your own project and the group that made you famous?

Releasing the album hasn’t got in the way of my other work. It doesn’t interfere. It’s just an album and besides, Incognito is my flagship. It always comes first, though it taught me that once you’ve created something, it’s no longer yours.

The album takes on a life of its own and somehow you find a way to exist with it and it with you.

I read that you dedicated a track to Nelson Mandela?

Yes, the title track on Leap of Faith was my way of honouring his resilient spirit. It was actually a shared tribute to him, Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi.

I’ve admired Mandela’s leadership and what he did for his people, and what he means to the world. Also, people may not know that my father is Édouard Maunick.

Apart from being a poet and writer, he was the Mauritian ambassador to South Africa after Nelson Mandela became president. So I had a chance to observe Mandela’s wonderful work at the time.

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