E Thekwini is preparing to host jazz enthusiasts that will be attending the inaugural KZN International Jazz Festival at the Durban Station on Saturday 3rd of June.  This highly anticipated event is organized by Sagiya Foundation in association with the KZN Jazz Appreciators Association.  The foundation CEO, Philani Duma, is the festival’s Managing Director, working alongside vocalist, music lecturer and vocal coach Xolisa Dlamini as Artistic Director.

Cameroon born US based multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona and Japanese born US based pianist Yayoi Ikawa will be performing in front of the Banana City audience.  Other musicians that complete the lineup include guitarist Selaelo Selota; a duo performance of pianist Nduduzo Makhathi and vocalist Mbuso Khoza; Xolisa Dlamini featuring Zawadi Yamungu, pianist Mthobisi Mthalane; bassist Bongani Nkwanyana; a trio made of pianist Neil Gonsalves, guitarists Demi Fernandez and Nibs Van Der Spuy; and the marabi outfit Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble.

Duma, who is also Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble’s drummer, said the main objectives of the event are to produce a KZN festival with pure Jazz flavour and international recognition, provide means of participation in promoting KZN and Durban as a sister city registered with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  “The festival is also intended to provide a network platform to connect KZN Jazz musicians with International Jazz Institutions and promoters such as UNESCO, International Jazz Day organization, Herbie Hancock Institute for Jazz, Cultural Connection Africa (CCA)”, he told Jazz It Out.

Philani Duma

This festival was launched at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, which celebrated 40 years of teaching and learning on the 30th of April, celebrated globally as International Jazz Day. It is expected to create jobs opportunities for KZN Jazz musicians, media, various service providers, suppliers; contribute to the cultural exchange with other international artists while boosting the Tourism and Economic Development of the City of eThekwini. Furthermore, it will be used to narrate and conserve history of KZN Jazz, African continent, and expose more youth to the genre.

Richard Bona, whose real name is Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo, is extremely popular among South African Jazz lovers.  Born in the village of Minta, central Cameroon on the 28th of October 1967, this grandson of a famous percussionist and singer has done sessions with great artists including Joe Zawinul, Regina Carter, Bob James and the great Harry Belafonte.  As a youngster, his eyes would be glued on someone playing an instrument for him to learn.  Although he is a multi-instrumentalist, he is rated among the best bass players in the globe.

Tokyo born and New York musically trained pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader Yayoi Ikawa has worked in many countries.  Living in the US has exposed her to several genres including Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Soul, Classical and World Music.  After recording a straight ahead jazz piano trio on Nippon Crown release “Angel Eyes” in 2004, she self produced “Color of Dreams” in 2005 displaying her original compositions.  Yayoi has toured within the US and internationally with her groups, and appeared at international Jazz festivals in Japan, Italy, Haiti, France, Slovenia, and Costa Rica.  In 2008, she started “The Bridge Project”.

Mbuso Khoza and Nduduzo Makhathini

Polokwane born guitarist Selaelo Selota is known for his electrifying live performances that always leave the audiences captivated.  Upon completing high school, he found employment as a mine worker because his financial circumstances made it impossible to further his studies.  Working and living with mineworkers exposed Selota to traditional songs and dances from the diverse South African tribal groups.  The University of Cape Town (UCT) graduate has recorded and produced several albums much to critical acclaim.

Virtuoso pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, whose second album with renowned Blue Note Records “In the Spirit of Ntu” won the Best Jazz Album at the 2023 Metro FM Awards, will be performing music from the 2022 album “AbasemKhathini”, which he recorded with vocalist, historian and cultural activist Mbuso Khoza.  The recording by the duo explores living in former colonial zones and raises concerns about being an African.  While it does not provide answers to the issues it raises, it does make the listener rethink about how to live life in a post-colonial era.  Makhathini recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Stellenbosch.

Known for her vocal jazz with hints and elements of afro-soul, gospel, traditional folk and contemporary maskanda music, sensational vocalist Xolisa Dlamini (who is also artistic director of the festival) will feature Zawadi Yamungu who is gaining popularity as an artist.  Dlamini, who was born in the tiny village of Rode in eMaxesibeni is regarded as a veteran in musical theatre and education in South Africa.  She has three albums to her credit which are “Times”, “Afro Blue” which nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 2010 Metro FM awards, and “Fire Born” which was produced by Nduduzo Makhathini.

Demi Fernandez

The extremely talented pianist, composer, arranger, and producer Mthobisi Mthalane’s versality makes him popular in several music genres.  His EP won him Best Afro Jazz Artist at the South African Traditional Music Awards, and Best Pianist at Mzansi Musical Instrumentalist Awards.  Mthalane also received a nomination for Best Traditional Jazz Album at Mzantsi Jazz Awards.  Between 2008 and 2011, he was part of SABC Gospel Music Crown Awards.  The Impendle born artist is always hard to predict which songs he will perform every time he gets on stage, thus earning him loyal fans who attend most his live performances.

Bassist Bongani Nkwanyana was born in eMkhumbane, Cator Manor in the early 60’s and his family was forcefully moved to KwaMashu under the notorious Group Areas Act.  Legendary Sipho Gumede asked Nkwanyana to be his backing bassist after the former left the group Sakhile to embark on a solo career.  The duo enjoyed a special friendship which lasted until Gumede passed away in 2004.  Nkwanyana appears in most of Gumede’s studio and live recordings with Sheer Sounds.  His EP won Best Bass Guitarist at 2022 Mzansi Musical Instruments Awards.  His career as a bassist has made him to travel to countries such as Germany, Swaziland, Botswana, Senegal, Namibia and many others.

Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble (UJE) is set up on music style with strong big band influence.  Their repertoire is dominated by music of the late 50’s mixed with band selection and its members’ compositions.  This was an extremely difficult period in the South African history. UJE always excel in articulating these events of that era through their music.  Band members include Jerry Kunene, Mduduzi Magwaza, Sithembiso Ntuli, Muntu Dube, Moses Sefatsa, Eric Duma, Bhekisigcino Luthuli, Vincent Mtetwa, Mduduzi Mahlobo, KB ‘The Master’ Maphumulo and Philani Duma.  

Richard Bona confirming his performance

Guitarists Demi Fernandez, Nibs Van Der Spuy and pianist Neil Gonsalves first crossed paths in Durban’s music scene in the early 90’s.  Brazil born Fernandez holds a Diploma in Jazz and Popular Music at Pretoria Technikon and an Honours Degree in Music from UCT.  Benoni- born Van Der Spuy grew up listening to The Beatles and had interactions with traditional Zulu Maskandi guitarists.  Gonsalves is currently the Director of the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at UKZN.  There is no doubt the trio of old friends will take the audience on a musical journey they have travelled in the last three decades.

The festival will be presented in three phases.  The first phase will be a Musical Business Masterclass and Improvisation Workshop.  The second phase will be an Opening Plenary with red carpet cocktail feel.  The third and final phase will be the festival itself.  Tickets are available at www.webtickets.co.za and Pick ‘n Pay for R350 to the general public while VIP tickets are going for R1000.  For more information on the festival, please visit www.sagiyafoundation.co.za Like or follow their Facebook Page Sagiya Foundation and follow Sagiya Foundation on Instagram @sagiyafoundation