Sinethemba Mkhize is a very passionate pianist and music student who always see art in almost everything.  “I guess it’s just who I am.  I am very shy, and I believe life is a gift that we must always cherish”, he told Jazz It Out.  Since childhood, he wanted to have proper training in music which was driven by a strong desire to pursue it as a career.  He has always been curious about what its like performing music as a professional.

Despite not being a professional musician, his late father owned about 30 guitars.  “He was a Pastor and a businessman who was away from home most of the time”, he recalls.  When he was not travelling, he would play his guitar and sing hymns with his wife.  “My mother is usually leading the choir at church.  My elder sister is probably one of the best singers I have ever heard”, he added.  His late brother was into drama and his youngest sister knows more musicians than he does.

Sinethemba Mkhize

At his first primary school, Sinethemba was a very good soccer player who had a lot of admirers.  When he moved to his second primary school, he found it strange that he was the only learner who could play piano.  “I would be called to play the piano, even when I was playing out of tune, my performances were met with applauses which made those moments priceless”, he said.  Being chosen to play piano when he felt his performances were below average gave him an impression that there was no access to formal music education at school and his greater community.

He must have been in Grade 3 when his father came home with a keyboard, took him and his brother to classes offered by the late Thembalakhe Cele, who used to play at a local church.  “Thembalakhe ignited fire in me”, he recalls.  “When I got to high school, I started playing one key and triads, then graduated to practicing major scales at Grade 11”, he said.  His playlist included songs by Siyanqoba Mthethwa, Lungelo Ngcobo and Cory Henry.  At the time, everything he knew about music was from YouTube.

Sinethemba, on the extreme right, is a member of the UKZN Jazz Ensemble. Picture by Amanda Mbatha

Sinethemba is a third year B Music student at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).  Since enrolling at the institution, his knowledge of music has increased significantly.  “Not just music but also thinking and putting attention to detail which is part of the music culture here”, he said.  Makgashule Thothela and Sanele Mbili have been his closest friends for the past two years.  His relationship with the duo has grown significantly. He still considers himself very fortunate at being accepted as a student at the institution.  “I always try not to think a lot about it to avoid intimidation”, he added.

Melvin Peters, Afrika Mkhize, Neil Gonsalves, Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane, Dalisu Ndlazi, Kenny Barron, Cori Henry, Bill Evans and Emmet Cohen are some of his favourite musicians.  Watching football and reading are his hobbies.  After graduating from UKZN, he wants to play music that has been troubling him for years, which he lacked an understanding to express artistically.  His Facebook account is Sinethemba Mkhize.  Follow him @Sinethemba3520 on Instagram.