“Tshiamo’s fascination with drums started from the age of 5.  His dad introduced him to the music of drummer Steve Gadd.  When he finished high school, he turned his back on mechanical engineering to study music, a decision he does not regret.  Sphelelo Mazibuko, Vusi Khumalo and Ayanda Sikade are just some of his favourite drummers”

Tshiamo Nkoane comes from a family that is into music and martial arts.   The drummer, band leader, composer session musician and producer that was born and raised in Bloemfontein, Free State describes himself as an ordinary person who loves sport especially swimming and goes fishing in his spare time. His five siblings include his brother Bonolo who is also a drummer.  It was through listening to his father’s cassettes that Tshiamo fell in love with the drumming sound.

“I was 13 years old when I performed for the school marching band”, he said with a chuckle.  His love for drums started from a very young age of 5.  Even though he learned to play other instruments including the piano, he is most comfortable with drums.  Given an opportunity to play at church did wonders to his confidence.  “When I noticed my fellow congregants appreciated my play, I knew this would be my life going forward”, he added.

Family and friends were not surprised to hear that Tshiamo had enrolled for a Diploma in Jazz and Popular Music at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2012.  “Even though I was actually supposed to study Mechanical Engineering, I chose to enroll at the School of Music instead”, he told Jazz It Out.  It was at this tertiary institution popularly known as TUT that Tshiamo became friends with Teboho Kobedi, Thami Mahlangu, Lehlohonolo Ntsoko, Sakhile Twala, Keorapetse Kolwane and many others.

Tshiamo Nkoane. Picture by Mano Munano

In 2015 and 2017, Tshiamo was nominated as a drummer for the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Band where played alongside accomplished bassist Concord Nkabinde.  He took part in more performances with Nkabinde.  The legendary bassist also formed a band called Vision of Jazz which included Nkoane, Phuti Sepuru, Keorapetse Kolwane and Thami Mahlangu.  “I learnt a lot from him as a musician and a big brother”, he said.

Early in 2016, Nkoane was part of the group that trombonist Dan Selsick took to a Swaziland tour where they gave performances and workshops.  Nkoane was also part of a theatre called “Milked Voice” that performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and received a standing ovation.  In 2017, he went on a tour with a band called “Beat Box Campus” where they performed at the Oppikoppi Festival.

He was also part of the Buddy Wells Band.  Tshiamo describes the saxophonist as “easy going and open minded”.  The experience of working with Wells was exciting and intimidating.  “I was surprised when Buddy asking me to be part of his band.  I had seen several of his performances prior to the invitation to join his band”, he added.  Tshiamo also vividly remembers a phone call he received from Ray Maseko to be part of “Worlds Apart” by “IT HAS TO BE JAZZ”.  He is grateful to have played with those young and fresh musicians.

Doing what he loves. Picture by Zakes Mahlangu

The drummer who chose to stay in Tshwane beyond his graduation has performed at festivals such as the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, National Youth Jazz Festival, National Arts Festival, Moretele Music Festival and Oppikoppi Festival.  Such performances have inspired him to dream big while growing in confidence.  These performances have shaped Tshiamo into the drummer the jazz fraternity have come to know and admire.

As a session drummer, he gets to perform with different musicians which requires different styles.  “I hate arriving late for a practice, studio session or a performance”, he told Jazz It Out.  He has played with Amo Chidi, Beatbox Campus, Prince Legoasa, Pops Mohamed, Keorapetse Kolwane, and Mandisi Dyantyis’s Big Band.  Such sessions also add to the knowledge he requires as an artist.

He is also a member of the group New Age Offering.  The rest of the band members are bassist Dalisu Ndlazi, pianist Zibusiso Makhathini, saxophonist Thami Mahlangu, trumpeter Muneeb Hermans and vocalist Daniel Van Der Walt.  Unfortunately, they do not get to perform very often because other members are based in Durban and Cape Town.  However, last year they did a Johannesburg and Durban tour which was well received by critics.

Picture by Lindo Mbhele

Nkoane is completing an honours degree in Community Music at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS).  “Academic discipline is very important for musicians.  I encourage those that can afford to study towards a music qualification to do so”, he told Jazz It Out.  One of the things that bring him a lot of fulfilment is the teaching he conducts at the communities of Soshanguve and Hammanskraal in Pretoria.  “I teach music to the young ones and they also ask me questions related to drums and how best to play them”, with a broad smile.

Apart from playing drums, Tshiamo has a considerable amount of knowledge and skill for music production.  He firmly believes producers must be able to create music regardless of the genre.  “Artists such as Mpumi Dhlamini and Nduduzo Makhathini have produced so many albums”, he said.  His passion for production is the same as that of recording and performing as an artist. “The two are intertwined”, he added.

While studying at TUT as a full-time student, he attended several masterclasses by South African and international artists. American drummer Thomas Taylor is one the artists he was fortunate to be part of his masterclass. His own peers at the campus also gave him a lot of inspiration. His favourite musicians are Vusi Khumalo, Chris Dave, his brother Bonolo Nkoane, Clement Benny, Leagan Breda, Jonno Sweetman, Ayanda Sikade, Sphelelo Mazibuko, Carlo Mombelli, and Buddy Wells.

Besides jazz, his other favourite music genres include gospel, hip hop, indigenous African music, Latin, and pop music.  “As long as the music gives me a good feeling”, he added. You can find him on Facebook as Tshiamo Nkoane and @yamo_drums on Instagram.