“One day he picked up an acoustic guitar that belonged to his late uncle and began to fiddle with it. The curiosity just kept growing and he could not stop wanting to learn the instrument. He kept on practicing. It was a brilliant guitar performance by Tokoloho Moeketsi that had a life changing impact on the young guitarist. What Vuyo heard Tokoloho playing was stuff he only heard on CD’s but never experienced it performed live. Moeketsi still teaches Vuyo to this day”
Vuyo Vumisa is a 28-year-old guitarist, writer, storyteller, performer and poet that was born in Gugulethu, Cape Town and later moved to Benoni in the East Rand. He is the son of Nosisi Tryphina Vumisa and the late Solomzi Masiko. The father of the 2-year-old Lathitha describes his mother as a remarkable soul, spiritually – minded person and genuine. She started as a domestic worker and later became a qualified artisan. Vuyo describes his late father as good, friendly and warmhearted. He was only 13 years of when his father passed away.
His love for reading started at Xolani Primary School in Gugulethu. “I was very active and once chosen to represent my school in a programme called READ. We would perform stories and read books with other kids from private schools”, he recalls. Even when he moved to St Francis College in Benoni, his love for literature continued. “I played cricket and sang in the choir”, he told Jazz It Out. When Vuyo’s mother failed to secure a job as a qualified artisan in Bellville, she decided to leave the Mother City and moved to Ekurhuleni where she and Vuyo started a new life.
Bassist Spencer Mbadu and Vuyo’s family are very close. The bassist is like an uncle to him and he stayed a couple of blocks away from his Gugulethu house. As a child, Vuyo was obsessed with everything his generation found fascinating. He was also very curious. “I started questioning certain behaviours and how we lived as a society, the barriers, how we communicate with each other”, going down memory lane. In trying to get answers, he took to writing stories and poems to express his thoughts and innermost feelings. “I needed a way to express myself”, which turned out to be a wise decision.
The younger Vuyo grew up listening to Hip-Hop, Deep House, R&B, Neo Soul and a touch of Jazz. His favourite artists were Tupac, Immortal Technique, The Layabouts, Meshell Ndegeocello, Black Coffee, Gregory Porter, Floetry, Laura Mvula and many others. Listening to these artists and genres further influenced more of his creative side, which he did not know at the time it would be his chosen career path. Then, he was driven by curiosity and appreciation of what musicians, rappers and poets would produce as an art form.
He loved deep house because of the poetry that was fused into the songs by rappers. Vuyo would write his own poems and mimic his favourite artists and flow on their beats. After passing matric, he enrolled at Ekurhuleni East College where he studied Marketing. Some of his friends at the college were so involved in music. One of them even had a studio where they would record music all day, which influenced him in studying music later, a decision he does not regret. He just fell in love with music and saw himself making a career out of it.
Vuyo’s mother was not happy when her son told her he wanted to study for a music qualification. It took a lot of convincing to make her realize that this was the right move, and eventually her support. The guitarist is a student at the Music Academy of Gauteng, an institution that was founded by the late Johnny Mekoa whom he got pay tribute in a TV broadcast. Vuyo also plays for the jazz orchestra at the institution. He describes his experience as the member of the orchestra as a truly amazing experience which has exposed him to so many artists from all over the world.
The first band that Vuyo joined was Celestial Clan. He was recruited by the late Senzo Nxumalo who happened to be the bass player for the Malcom Jiyane Trio. The two formed a very good friendship which saw Senzo staying at his house. The rest of the band members were Waterlily Rosa on vocals, Kegorogile Makgatle on drums, Neo Lelaka on trumpet and Malcom Jiyane on trombone. Vuyo was on poetics. “I would provide space for rehearsal at my home from time to time, which exposed me to so many artists”, he told Jazz It Out. He would also learn more about the guitar while with the Celestial Clan and the Malcom Jiyane Trio.
Tokoloho Moeketsi is someone Vuyo describes as an ‘exceptionally gifted’ guitarist. “His approach to the instrument is something amazing to witness. When I first saw him play, I felt a deep fire burning inside my chest. I knew right there that I wanted to be a guitarist”, he said. The mesmerized Vuyo had never seen anyone playing the guitar that well. As a guitarist and poet, Vuyo has shared the stage with artists and authors like Julien Sanchez Carballo, Percy Mabandu, Rabbie Wrote, Khaya Mahlangu, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Mandla Mlangeni, Mac Manaka, Maselo Motaba and Karabo Mohlala. “Those experiences truly helped in building my confidence”, he said.
Vuyo is the guitarist for Nomsa Mazwai. He recalls going for auditions at Downtown Music Hub on the 13th of October 2018 where Nomsa was looking for instrumentalists, backing vocalists and dancers. A week later he got a text message congratulating him for being part of the team “Nomisupasta” and his first performance with Nomsa was at the Afro Punk Festival held later that year. He is also the guitarist for saxophonist Linda Tshabalala, whose band members are musicians he knows extremely well, having attended Gauteng Music Academy and members of the institution’s big band. Vuyo is also the guitarist and performer for Magnus Opus.
Best in the World is the name of a band that was formed in 2017with Vuyo as its leader on guitar and poetics. The other members are Sibusiso Ndlangisa Shwaweni on bass and vocals, as well as Lunga Mbulelo Majaja on vocals, drums and toys. The band also works with visual artist Thulani Nhlapho. Best in the World uses music, art, filming, photography and fashion as a means of self-discovery and self-identity to contribute their unique perspective and philosophy to instigate a new consciousness. They are driven by the goal of creating something great, power in unity, uniqueness, existence, and the power to procreate.
The quest to master the guitar saw Vuyo taking extra lessons from legendary guitarist Themba Mokoena as his recent mentor starting in July last year. “His aura is truly magnificent. Very kind, full of wisdom and always patient with me. I will forever be grateful to have met and have him as a teacher”, he told Jazz It Out. The excitement of working with legendary Themba Mokoena does not make Vuyo forget another guitarist who had a positive impact in his career. He describes Monwabisi Xhakwe as a brother, friend and teacher. “The first song I ever learned from to play on the guitar was a composition of his that he taught me”, he said.
Isenzo Senkosi by Best in the World
He recalls with fond memories that it was Malcolm Jiyane and Kegorogile Makgatle that introduced him to the club Freedom Station. Vuyo is grateful to the duo for having faith in him and inviting him to many other gigs and jam sessions. He also describes trumpeter Tebogo Seitei as a kind person who always provides him a place to sleep whenever he is performing in Johannesburg and after attending lessons with Themba Mokoena. “The entire Seitei family is always kind to me and I am grateful for the brotherly love from Tebza”, he added.
Vuyo’s favourite music genres have not changed that much since his childhood days with the exception that he has gone deeper in others. Even though he does not like the word ‘genre’ because in puts one in a ‘box’, he still likes Hip-Hop, Neo Soul, soft rock, contemporary classic and trap soul. His favourite artists are Mbuso Khoza, Themba Mokoena, Sibusile Xaba, Keenan Ahrends, Jimmy Dludlu, Lionel Loueke, Richard Bona, Raul Midón, Isaiah Sharkey, Vieux Farka Touré, Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, George Benson and Jimi Hendrix.
Reading is his biggest hobby. “I do not compromise on spending time with my family”, he said. He also loves outdoor activities with hiking as his latest interest. “I also love exercising and having a good time with friends”, he added. His Facebook account is Vuyo Vumisa. Follow him on Twitter @VumisaVuyo, @Vuyo.V on Instagram and subscribe to his YouTube channel Vuyo Vumisa.