Musician, vocalist and composer Josie Matabola is a fun-loving individual from New Eesterus, Hammanskraal who loves joking and seeing people happy.  She describes her parents as strict but loving.  Both parents can sing and the love for music comes mainly from her dad’s side because everyone can sing but they are more into gospel.  “I inherited love for jazz from uncle Jerry who is from my mother’s side. He really loved jazz”, she told Jazz It Out.

When she was just 5, she would imitate opera singers and was fascinated by their way of singing.  At junior primary school, the teacher who conducted senior choristers asked her to join the choir. “I got an impression that she probably saw something in me while I was still a junior”, she said.  Josie would sing duets in competitions.  However, when she got to high school, she did a lot of dancing than singing.  But she never abandoned singing even although she participated in fewer competitions compared to her years at primary.

Vocalist Josie Matabola. Picture by Blunt Moya

Her parents were not impressed to hear that she wanted to pursue a career in music.  They asked her to study something different.  “I decided to do Human Resources (HR) just to please them but only lasted for 8 months before dropping out”, recalling that period of frustration.  If it was not for the love of music, she would have studied choreography.  After quitting HR, she joined the MC Art at The South African State Theatre, which is where her love for jazz grew stronger.  Later she enrolled at the Vusi Mahlasela Music Academy where she did Grade 3, 4, and 5.  It was at the academy where she met members of a group called Encore whose bassist and singer Zodwa Mabena was her teacher in Grade 5.

Her eagerness to learn more about jazz drove her to Durban where she studied Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).  The years she spent at the coastal city made her grow musically.  She also struck friendships with many musicians who are now like extended family.  Her first gig as a student which she will never forget was at The Chairman.  Josie was also included in the Vocal Showcase which took place at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music.  Another performance she had fond memories of was at the Bat Centre. She describes her music as modern meets African, a fusion of South African jazz with American swing which contains SePedi rhythms.

Josie has performed at festivals such as The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival, Moretele Tribute Festival, Jazz in July Festival, National Arts Festival (In Makhanda).  When she performed at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival, she was still studying at the Vusi Mahlasela Music Academy and was part of the band that included Kabelo Thomane, Kee Kototsi and Luyavuma Mabuza.  At Moretele Tribute Festival, she was part of Sol Shibambu’s band.  When she performed at Jazz in July Festival, she was in a band that consisted of Dalisu Ndlazi, Zibusiso Makhathini, Riley G, Phumlani Mtiti and Thabo Sikhakhane.

Umhome – Josie Matabola

At the National Arts Festival held in Makhanda, she performed with Small Jazz voice ensembleled by Lisette Spinnler from Switzerland.  “Working with Lisette was quite exciting and I found her ideas interesting and her musical approach wasphenomenal”, she recalls.  Performing live is one of the things she thoroughly enjoys.  “Respect for each other as musicians and allowing creatives to showcase their talent are very key in performing live as a band”, she said.  When she arrived to study at UKZN, she began working with Dalisu Ndlazi as her co-composer and musical director, with Sbu Zondi and Sanele Phakathi as other key members of her band.

Now that the Covid regulations are currently eased somewhat, she is hoping to perform in many concerts.  She also believes there should be ‘proper’ jazz festivals with ‘proper’ jazz artists to clear the confusion that often happens when some festivals are wrongly billed as jazz festivals.  Josie also wants to see music taught at schools which she believes will result in a nation that has an understanding and appreciation of the arts.  It is not a secret that in South Africa, artists (including jazz musicians) are still struggling to be recognized as professionals. She hopes to release her debut album in a not too distant future.

Her favourite musicians include Ncamisa Nqana, Morayks, Zoe The Seed, Mbuso Khoza, Lindiwe Maxolo, Miriam Makeba, Busi Mhlongo, Betty Carter, Nina Simone, Jazzmeia Horn and Dee Dee Bridgewater.  When she is not singing, composing and performing, she enjoys dancing, watching movies and hanging out with friends.  Her Facebook Page is Josie Matabola Music.  Follow her @josiematabola on Twitter and Instagram.  Connect with her on LinkedIn and subscribe to her YouTube channel.