Take note: Nduduzo Makhathini drops a first for SA

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Take note: Nduduzo Makhathini drops a first for SA

The award-winning musician is the first South African to sign to Blue Note Records

Debbie Hathway

“We love this man with an uncommon depth ... when he walks into a room, soul walks in with him.” These were the words of American virtuoso trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in his introduction of multi-award-winning South African musician and Blue Note artist Nduduzo Makhathini to a Joy of Jazz festival audience last year. Makhathini had joined the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra in paying tribute to the music of American pianist and composer Duke Ellington.

If you’ve been unable to witness that entrance in person, you only have to hear Makhathini put fingers to keys to get the picture. His work has grabbed my attention repeatedly as I’ve scrolled through his Instagram feed to get a sense of the man and his music, and followed the journey to the launch of his Blue Note Records debut album, Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds on April 3. When he plays, there is little choice but to tune in to the moment and the message.

Makhathini’s new album boasts a global hit list. It includes US saxophonist Logan Richardson and bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere. South African collaborators include tenor saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane, trumpeter Ndabo Zulu, drummer Ayanda Sikade, and Makhathini’s wife Omagugu and daughter Nailah on backing vocals. Senegalese percussionist El Hadj Ngari Ndong features too. The band’s pan-Africanist outlook is deliberate, underpinning Makhathini’s desire for music performances to be “a space for conversations that open a discourse of African histories that reside beyond the borders of this continent”. ..

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