Drummer Tumi Mogorosi

Some jazz musicians have two types of personalities, the on-stage personality and the off-stage personality.  The on-stage personality always drives the audiences to a frenzy, applauded because of their performances, adored for the innovation they bring to the craft.  The off-stage personality is often relaxed and very modest.  Drummer Tumi Mogorosi is one those types of musicians.

The 30-year-old husband to vocalist Gabi and a young daughter Thar e Nntsu strongly believes in creativity.  He strongly believes in a collective be it a recording of an album or a live performance.  Tumi was born in a small town of Frankfort in the Free State, grew up is Dube, Soweto and later moved to Vosloorus and Leondale in the Free State.  He now lives in Johannesburg with his wife and daughter.

Mogorosi is a very busy man.  He has a family that needs his attention, a hectic schedule of live performances, studies that require his concentration and a few projects that he is involved with.  Marabi Jazz Lounge had a chat with this drummer who is earning recognition from jazz critics and fellow musicians for his style of music which is increasing his popularity and ratings.  He starts by saying that he has a lot of respect for fellow South African drummer Ayanda Sikade.

With wife Gabi who is a vocalist 

Tumi is currently doing a master’s degree in jazz as a fine art and as knowledge management.  He previously studied instruments and compositions at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).  Subsequent to that, he has been engaged in research on knowledge productions.  “I studied performance, composition and instrument”, he says while taking a sip from a soft drink.  He is good friends with the owner of this coffee shop located at Maboneng Precinct.

“When I was growing up as a child, I never saw myself as a musician”, recalling those early years.  He started playing guitar at high school, composed a few songs and performed in front of his teachers and school mates.  “In Leondale, there is a house I would visit every day which had a lot of instruments.  Inclination to the drums became stronger.  I never said no to the creative process and impetus to move beyond designated points”, he said.

He is reluctant to talk about his highlights as an individual musician, insisting that he prefers to speak from the achievements of a generation thus far, a collective achievement of some sort.  “From an individual point of view, it is difficult to speak for myself about myself.  Clearly this jazz sensation is very humble and does not want the limelight.

His debut album

In 2014, Tumi released his debut album entitled Project Elo.  Elo stands for Elohim, the angelic entities of the spiritual scriptures that are his philosophy, a symbol for the accomplishment human beings.  He tells Marabi Jazz Lounge that the album was inspired by life in general, Black life in particular.  “It was an expression of brotherhood and sisterhood within the musical community”, he said.  The album consists of 7 original songs which are a true expression to Tumi Mogorosi.    His idea was to en-corporate jazz and choral classical music.  Their sextet included Thembinkosi Mavimbela on bass, Sibusile Xaba on guitar, Nhlanhla Mahlangu on tenor sax, Mthunzi Mvubu on alto sax, and Malcom Jiyane on trombone.

Mogorosi pays tribute to the musicians that had a strong influence on his career as a musician.  They include Zim Ngqawana, Andile Yenana, Herbie Tsoaeli, Feya Faku, Sydney Mnisi, Marcus Wyatt, Morabo Morojele and many others.  The album was recorded live over two days with no overdubs.  Princess Gabi is a dedication to his wife while Thokozile Queen Mother is a dedication to his mother, who also had a great influence of his journey as a musician. In the tune, Gabi does wonders on vocals.

The influence of John Coltrane is very evident in Inner Emergence and Slaves Emancipation.  Two years ago, he released his second album entitled Sanctum Sanctorium.  This project was recorded in Switzerland where he largely collaborated with wife Gabi.  “She and I composed songs for the album. Its sound texture was different from Project Elo”, he said.  Regrettably, Marabi Jazz Lounge failed to get a copy of this album before this week’s posting.

His second album

He further describes his wife as a great human being, artist and composer.  They have a lot in common.  Their relationship is something that is always top of his priority and is also vital in raising their young daughter.  The advantages of being married to a person who is in the same industry as you are that you get all the support that makes you a better person.

“To us artists, creativity is very important.  Jazz as a music genre is very important where individual artists become creative”, with a strong emphasis.  Tumi is confident that South African music has a rich heritage that breaks so many divisional notions that are institutionalized by the politics of Bantustans.  “I want to start a social activity.  Jazz is part of a long history of problematizing such notions”, he added.

Despite the hectic schedule he has, he always makes time to be part of Fundamental Project, which is a project of locating jazz in the trajectory of a line of long creative, spiritual and political act.  “We are looking at it beyond politics where a lot of Black people find themselves.  Creativity is something I locate as an identity which can be made”, he told Marabi Jazz Lounge.  He wants to expound on some of the work his peers are doing as moving more in creative nuance beyond the market named jazz.

On live performances which is what is always lauded for, he takes a deep breath and says he always look at live performance as a gift.  “When we perform, we play different roles and we interrogate the space and platform accorded to us artists critically, and this gift of art”, taking his last sip of soft drink and walking to his car to get back to his hectic schedule.  It was a great day indeed.


Zishaphi – Where it’s happening


The Orbit Jazz Club & Bistro – Braamfontein

9   February 20h30: Mabuta: Album launch – R150

10 February 20h30: Mabuta: Album launch – R150

13 February 20h30: Mihi Matshingana presents Queen:  The Saga – R100


UKZN Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, Howard College – Durban

14 February 18h00: Songs of Love for Valentine’s Day – R80 general entry, R50 pensioners, and R50 students carrying student cards.


The CRYPT Jazz Restaurant – Cape Town

9   February 20h00: Cape Dutch Connection – R100

13 February 20h00: Jazz 100 – R100

14 February 20h00: Tina Schouw on Valentine’s Day – R100

15 February 20h00: Camillo Lombard Trio – R100