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South African Pianist & Composer Nduduzo Makhathini Returns With Luminous Blue Note Africa Album


Photo Credit: Hugh Mdlalose



The visionary South African pianist, composer, and healer Nduduzo Makhathini has released In the Spirit of Ntu, his milestone tenth studio album, his second album to be released on Blue Note Records in partnership with Universal Music Group Africa following Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds (which The New York Times named one of the “Best Jazz Albums of 2020”), and the very first release on the newly formed imprint Blue Note Africa.


Makhathini condenses the thematic, sonic, and conceptual notions explored over his catalog into a layered yet accessible 10-track album on In the Spirit of Ntu. “I really felt this need to summarize everything I've done this far and put it into ‘some’ context,” he says. A central figure of the country’s vibrant jazz scene, Makhathini assembled a band consisting of some of South Africa’s most exciting young musicians including saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane, trumpeter Robin Fassie Kock, vibraphonist Dylan Tabisher, bassist Stephen de Souza, percussionist Gontse Makhene, and drummer Dane Paris, as well as special guests including vocalists Omagugu and Anna Widauer, and American saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.

Folding a range of concepts such as ‘minor and major rhythms,’ ‘guided mobility,’ ‘active listening,’ and ‘ritualism’ into the project, Makhathini draws on his background in Zulu traditions and intellectual curiosities to inform his engaging articulations. “I'm grappling with these cosmological ideas as a way of situating jazz in our context,” he says. “I put out Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds using the letter as a metaphor for the sounds coming from the underworlds. Previously, I had released Listening to the Ground which encored into this idea of listening as knowing. In the Spirit of Ntu is living in that paradigm of listening to the things that emerge from the ground. Ntu is an ancient African philosophy from which the idea of Ubuntu stems out. Ubuntu says: ‘I am because you are.’ It is a deep invocation of collectiveness.”

“This project was conceived at a difficult time in South Africa, a time of confusion and conflict,” says Makhathini. “It was, once more, a period of burning fires, riots and massacres. In this sense, the music that I have composed is not surrounding these fires as a backdrop or soundtrack—these sounds are part of the discourse. They project from the burning fires until the fires stop burning. What remains is what these sounds seek to restore. Ntu as a creative force that seeks to lead us to remember our essence.”


NDUDUZO MAKHATHINI – TOUR DATES:

May 30 – Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC

June 3 – Blue Room, Kansas City, MO

June 4 – Blue Room, Kansas City, MO

June 7 – Take Two at Public Records, Brooklyn, NY

June 9 – Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA

June 11 – Vermont Jazz Center, Brattleboro, VT

July 8 – North Sea Jazz Festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands

July 9 – Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents, Marseille, France

July 12 – Jazz à Vienne, Vienne, France

July 15 – Nice Jazz Festival, Nice, France

July 16 – Albinea Jazz Festival, Albinea, Italy

August 6 – Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, Ystad, Sweden

November 20 – London Jazz Festival, London, United Kingdom

November 23 – Barcelona Jazz Festival, Barcelona, Spain

November 26 – La Spirale, Fribourg, Switzerland

November 27 – Kirchenmusikschule, St. Gallen, Switzerland

December 2 – deSingel, Antwerp, Belgium

December 3 – Theatre de la Verriere, Lille, France



Perhaps apart from Makhathini’s influences such as John Coltrane, Bheki Mseleku, McCoy Tyner, and Abdullah Ibrahim, In The Spirit of Ntu pulls his most foundational cultural Influences into a space where the sounds of the South African landscape are placed at the center of the nation’s evolving jazz songbook. The song “Nyoni Le” does exactly this by employing shades of Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu’s style, a songstress cherished for her use of traditional vocal techniques. “Amahubo are the sounds of our villages,” Makhathini shares. “These sounds are like sacred texts, documents, or books and I’ve been exploring ways to echo them in my work.”


“This project was conceived at a difficult time in South Africa, a time of confusion and conflict,” says Makhathini. “It was, once more, a period of burning fires, riots and massacres. In this sense, the music that I have composed is not surrounding these fires as a backdrop or soundtrack—these sounds are part of the discourse. They project from the burning fires until the fires stop burning. What remains is what these sounds seek to restore. Ntu as a creative force that seeks to lead us to remember our essence.”



Website: www.bluenote.com/spotlight/nduduzo-makhathini-in-the-spirit-of-ntu

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nduduzo.makhathini

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nduduzomakhathini