DJ Kenzhero, along with jazz musicians Thandi Ntuli and Benjamin Jephta, has formed a group to recreate the Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis.
Lovers of jazz and Davis might be wondering how a group of South African artists would dare to reimagine an American masterpiece. Not only are they doing that, but they are also fusing two trains of thought into this project. It isn’t a secret that jazz has a mature aura to it while hip-hop has a rather pimply-faced grace.
Kenzhero says the ensemble came about through his company, MNM Marketing, alongside Tebogo Moalusi and his partner on the decks and in the boardroom, Tha Muzik.
“We put out a public service announcement for band members and Thandi Ntuli came highly recommended. She roped in Jephta and Sphelelo Mazibuko, and later we included H3, Linda Sikhakhane, Senzo Ngcobo and Sthe Bhengu.”
The project started in 2015. Upright bass player Jephta will tell you that the idea burst into life after a chat that Ntuli and Kenzhero had, and the concept has been changing and growing ever since.
#trending got to see them perform a few years ago at the National Arts Festival and they were an absolute highlight.
The group even went as far as calling themselves Rebirth of Cool and they performed to the small crowd as if they were holding down a stadium arena.
Why this particular album?
“The Miles Davis album changed the face of jazz at the time, from big bands to smaller ensembles and sophisticated music writing. Our contribution is to introduce urbanness and reintroduce jazz to non-jazz traditionalists.”
Jazz has always been seen as a highbrow art form. These artists believe their approach can help tear these notions down.
“That is the point – including a deejay in the band stand is part of that. To recombine turntables as an instrument. Our aim is to break that perception that jazz is highbrow.”
Benjamin rejects any sentiments that jazz is for old souls as he enjoys a healthy mixture of ages at his shows. He hopes everyone who encounters this project will become aware of the depths that reside in this genre.
“Miles ... said that ‘bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn’t about standing still and becoming safe If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.’ I think he would probably insist that we carve our own way with the music.”
To see this collective live is to immediately develop a hankering for their creativity. Kenzhero and Jephta assure us that original music is in the pipeline beyond this remix tape.
The Rebirth of the Cool will be streamed on June 13 at https://madeby.africa/ at 5pm