Saxophonist Manelisi Khumalo is a young and dedicated saxophonist who has performed with some big names in the Jazz fraternity.  Born and raised in Umlazi, south of Durban, he comes from a family where everyone has a passion for music.  Both parents are choristers and his three siblings also love music including a younger brother who is a rapper.  His father is the biggest influence who encouraged him to learn music.

As a youngster, he often went to see an orchestra performing at The Playhouse.  “I was part of the school choir during my primary and high school days”, he told Jazz It Out.  Outside the school choir, he was into the music of Sfiso Ncwane, Benjamin Dube, Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa.  In 2016, he joined Siyakhula Community Music Centre where he was taught by Sga Biyela, Khulekani Bhengu and Dr Brian Thusi.

Saxophonist Manelisi Khumalo

At Siyakhula, he started with the piano before switching to the clarinet.  “It was after meeting Linda Sikhakhane that I decided to play the saxophone and have not looked back”, he said.  By that time, Linda was already making a name for himself in Johannesburg.  The younger brother to Linda, Thabo Sikhakhane was giving theory lessons at Siyakhula on Sundays.  It was also in 2016 when Manelisi became part of the KwaZulu Natal Young Wind Band which went on a tour to New York in the US.

In 2018, he became a member of the Durban Music School Jazz Band.  He is currently studying at the Trinity College London.  In his short career, Manelisi considers himself very lucky to have worked with some of the amazing musicians in KZN.  Not only has he performed with pianist Mthobisi Mthalane, he also featured in the live recording Mthalane made with Sagiya Foundation in 2021 which was released as an EP.  He was introduced to the pianist by the late trombonist Thembinkosi TT Khumalo.

He can play the saxophone anywhere anytime

Other artists Manelisi he has worked with include bassist Bongani Nkwanyana, guitarist Vusi Mkhize and vocalist Xolisa Dlamini.  “Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’ve had the opportunity to work with these amazing musicians”, he said.  At the KZN International Jazz Festival that was held in Durban earlier this month, Manelisi performed with Nkwanyana and Mthalane.  This young saxophonist is grateful for the confidence that those who have travelled a longer musical distance have placed on him.

He has this message to those younger than him who want to pursue music as a career: “Everything is possible with God.  It’s just a matter of believing in what you are doing, do it with love and be fully dedicated”.  Manelisi also listens to Gospel and RnB. His hobbies include reading, jogging, athletics and soccer.  Linda Sikhakhane, Jerry Kunene, Nduduzo Makhathini, John Coltrane and Wynton Marsalis are just some of his favourite musicians.  He is Manelisi Khumalo on Facebook.  Follow him on Instagram @khumalomanelisi and @ManelisiKhumaL6 on Twitter.