Homegirl returns to conquer

2011-06-03 15:03

How have you seen the festival grow since your debut in 1999?
I don’t visit Grahamstown every year. The last time I was there was in 2004 as the recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. It felt the same as when I was a student at the ­Grahamstown Youth Jazz Festival.

How have you, as an artist, evolved in the same period?
As human beings, we evolve and the music grows with us.

I’m aware of certain things that I wasn’t aware of 10 to 15 years ago. ­

Being aware of one’s emotions and how one reacts to certain things makes the music sound a ­certain way.

Trying to let go of the ego, but also realising that having an ego isn’t ­necessarily a bad thing; it contributes to the growth of the music.

Being based in Belgium, how do you ensure that your sound remains ­authentically South African?
My music is not meant to sound a certain geographical way. I’m blessed to live in an environment where great musicians are living and working.

For me, music is about different souls from anywhere with the same taste and vision, coming together and creating something special. Africa will always be in my music because that’s where I’m from.

How has being based in Belgium benefited your career?
Too many ways to count. I have had the pleasure of finding myself in the same space with musicians such as Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner.

Once I was ­performing in a jazz club Le ­Bilboquet in Paris , and Ralph ­Fiennes walked in and listened to me sing Lakutshon’ilanga.

How has working with your Belgian quartet of instrumentalists ­enriched your music?
It has enriched me.

These guys are my brothers in life and in music, and they challenge me and elevate me to be a better singer and person.

 My ­music would most definitely not be what it is if it weren’t for their input.

Describe your music?
It definitely has its roots in jazz, American straight-ahead jazz.

 But more and more I start to write lyrics in Sepedi or Sesotho, so that gives it another sound. I guess for lack of a better term, I am a jazz musician.

You won a Sama for your latest album of Miriam Makeba covers, what role did she play in your career?
Sadly, I only became aware of the musical legacy that she left us much later. Growing up in Mamelodi in the 80s, all we heard on radio was American R&B and soul music.

I started to delve deeper into her music and her incredible life story a few years back.

It was during this time that I was approached by the musical director of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra to do a project with music from my home, and it seemed only logical that I chose her, mmeMakeba’s life story.

What is it that you wished South ­Africans knew about their own ­music and cultural spaces?
Everything. We know so little.

I wish I had paid more attention when ­maneAnna would do “direto” (praise poetry). And had gone more often to Ga-Mphahlele with my grandfather.

How often do you visit home?
As often as I can. I was home for the Samas, and will be home again in July to perform with my quartet at the State Theatre on ­July 1 and at the Grahamstown festival on July 2 and 5, and also at the end of August for the Joy of Jazz.

What do you miss most about South Africa?
In order of importance: My family, my friends, the warmth/friendliness of the South African people, atchar, mageu and, of course, the sun.

Will you ever settle back in SA?
Eventually everyone goes back home.

I can’ tell you when that will be though.

What would you like to leave as your legacy?
Beautiful music from my heart.

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