“Trumpeter Lungani Gumede’s style of music has an element of Afro Jazz fused with Maskandi. The man whose late mother and grandfather were good singers is extremely proud of his roots. His peers in the music industry describe him as a brutally honest individual and he does confess that his character is always revealed through his music”
Hammarsdale born and raised trumpeter, singer, songwriter and arranger Lungani Gumede took a deep sigh when he was asked to define jazz in one sentence and said: “Jazz is the art of expression which focusses more on improvisation”. He recalls attending the show “Sekunjalo The Return of Hugh Masekela” which marked the return of the legendary trumpeter from exile. It was his late elder brother Musawenkosi who bought him the ticket to the show.
“As Bra Hugh was playing, I fell in love with the sound of the trumpet and wanted to play the instrument”, he told Jazz It Out. Even though he always adored music and listened to vinyl records his elder brother collected, Masekela’s outstanding live performance had a huge impact and influence on the youngster. It was at that concert that he decided he was going to be a trumpeter.
School is not something that Lungani really enjoyed. The political violence that Mpumalanga Township in Hammarsdale endured for about four years did not make things any easier for him. “My school days were very chaotic. Despite switching from one school to another, the violence did not end. It really disrupted our lives”, he said. However, there were some fun days he remembers when DJ’s would come to play music for the learners at school.
He would to make sure not to miss the contemporary jazz slot that Bheki Msane presented on former Radio Zulu now Ukhozi FM. While still at high school, he started attending a programme called “Ukusa” which was a Saturday programme offered by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) where they taught music. “I started by playing drums and later switched to learning how to play the trumpet”, he said.
Despite having three siblings that chose teaching as a profession, Lungani took a different route when he enrolled for a Diploma in Jazz Performance at UKZN. His mother showed some misgivings but his father supported the decision. It was at the Durban tertiary institution that Lungani met the likes of Feya Faku, Sydney Mavundla, Andile Yenana, Sazi Dlamini, Mfana Mlambo and many others.
His world transformed from the Gumede biological family to the greater jazz family. Lungani’s ‘jazz family members’ and circle of friends included Xoli Nkosi, Nkanyezi Cele, Prince Kupi, Phiwe Solomon, Mdu Madlala, and Claude Gawe. He would later play with different bands until he joined a band called Ilima where he spent four years. “We played African music. My experience in music includes three genres which are Jazz, African and Classical music”, he told Jazz It Out.
Since turning professional, Lungani has shared the stage with big names in the music industry. These names are Themba Mkhize, Gloria Bosman, Sipho Gumede, Brian Thusi, Sazi Dlamini, Bernard Mndaweni, Vusi Mkhize, Victor Sithole, Vincent Mthethwa, Njeza Dlamini and still maintains contact with his mentors Themba Mkhize and Herbie Tsoaeli. “I like to stay in touch with musicians who have been there and done that have been there and done that. There is a huge depth of knowledge that one can learn from experienced musicians like Mkhize and Tsoaeli”, he added.
One of the highlights of his career was his participation at the Hazelmere Jazz Festival which was his first time to perform his own compositions for a large audience. He recalls: “The response I got from that audience was very encouraging”. Lungani firmly believes that “live performances motivate us as musicians because we get to interact with audiences, which is something one cannot buy”. He has also performed at venues like the Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown and Sea Man’s Corner in his home township.
He is very grateful for his skill of composing music. “When you are a composer, your music is your craft and your creation. It is very important to teach yourself those different roles”, he said. The trumpeter who once considered enrolling for a law degree is very mindful of the fact that music industry is very competitive. “As an artist, it is very important to understand the industry and how it works”, he added. Through his mentors, he has leant that it is important not to imitate other artists.
Lungani has composed a lot of music which he gets to share with his audiences. “I am more than ready to record my debut album”, he told Jazz It Out. He has spoken with some of the best producers in this country who have shown a keen interest in his music and is working hard to secure a sponsor for the recording and the release of the project. Compromising his style of music is not something he will do when he gets to the studio. Lungani did not want to divulge the artists he wants to work with on his debut album but he said he knows they would love to work with him.
This artist who is passionate about African style of music firmly believes that jazz will grow if it gets more radio airplay. “I also think there should be more venues that promote jazz especially in the townships”, he added. He is always excited to see younger audiences at festivals like the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival and Cape Town International Festival. Having had his fair share of disappointments, Lungani is reluctant to divulge his future plans. All he said was “it is in God’s hands”.
Legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela is still one of his favourite trumpeters of all time. “It was Bra Hugh who made me fall in love with the instrument”, he said with a smile. He also gets inspiration from Marcus Wyatt, Sydney Mavundla, Feya Faku, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Terrence Blanchard and Chris Botti. Lungani is a huge soccer fan and sports in general. He enjoys watching movies especially comedy and likes to keep abreast of what is happening politically in the country and around the globe.
His only social media account is on Facebook where he goes by the name of Lungani Lungani.