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Peter Feldman writes: Siyavuma Makuzeni, the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, has certainly come into her own and will be one of the local musical attractions at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown next week.
The jazz festival runs from June 30 until July 9 and features a glittering array of artists from 15 countries, as well as a strong local contingent.
From the red sandy hills of Mdantsane, in the Eastern Cape, where she grew up, Makuzeni has travelled a long path to reach her present musical status. She is even featured on vocals on the new Roots soundtrack (music composed by Philip Miller). The acclaimed four-part television series, with an all-star cast, is currently being screened on HISTORY (DStv channel 186.)
This gifted trombone player, vocalist, lyricist and songwriter described winning the jazz award as “a pleasant, though unexpected, surprise” which helped open many doors for her.
“It has allowed for more recognition with regards to my already established career and my contribution to the music industry for the last 14 years. It has given me exposure and for that I am truly grateful,” she says.
Asked what it means to be performing at the festival, she replied: “I am extremely excited to come full circle in a journey where I began as a student and this year I perform as the Young Artist.”
Makuzeni will be presenting her original compositions from her Siya Makuzeni Sextet project, as well as being featured in Afrika Mkhize’s Bheki Mseleku Big Band tribute show.
Makuzeni, who attributes her success to “lots of hard work and perseverance”, has had a hectic working schedule that included serving as Musical Director and additional music composer on Mzansi Magic’s The Road, which ended its run in March, and there is also a new album in the pipeline.
“I am producing the new album myself,” she says proudly. “It features Thandi Ntuli on piano and keyboards, Ayanda Sikade on drums, Benjamin Jephta on upright/electric bass, Sisonke Xonti on tenor sax, Sakhile Simani on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Justin Faulkner (from Branford Marsalis Quartet) who is featured on drums.”
Her inspiration for her songs, she says, comes from “positive affirmation, love and believing in yourself”.
“Musically I draw influences from Xhosa music, traditional and modern jazz, soul, electronic and experimental music.”
A musical highlight recently was as the opening act for the Jazz Epistles Reunion showcase, and she was also invited to perform at the Safaricom International Jazz Festival in Nairobi, Kenya in February this year.
She believes that the state of South African music is healthy and growing and the country boasts an amazing array of young musicians with incredible offerings of their own.
When she’s out of the spotlight and relaxing at home, Makuzeni loves to spend time with her five-year-old son. She has wide musical tastes and enjoys listening to the music of such artists as Thandi Ntuli, Benjamin Jephta, Afrika Mkhize, Bokani Dyer,James Blake, D’Angelo, Jacky Terrasson, Imogen Heap, The Weekend and Bjork.
Taking part at The Standard Bank Grahamstown Jazz Festival are Grammy Award winners Trio Corrente from Brazil and Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre; Austrian singer and trumpeter Michaela Rabitsch and guitarist Robert Pawlik; Dutch saxophonist Toon Roos andthe powerhouse tenor sax duo of Dave O’Higgins (UK) and Per Thornberg (Sweden). Also featured are local South African musicians such as the legendary Caiphus Semenya; Simphiwe Dana; the Afrika Mkhize Big Band; Swing City and Ringo Madlingozi. For more information, check www.standardbank.com/naf or www.youthjazz.co.za
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Peter Feldman has been a journalist and arts critic for more than 50 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time, he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa’s biggest film and musical events. He is active in the freelance field and his work has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He writes regularly for Artslink.co.za, The Citizen, Saturday Star, The Next 48 Hours and The Sunday Independent. He has also worked on TV in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, “Video Games,” which was released in 1988. He is credited with inventing the slogan “Local is Lekker” which he used on David Gresham’s “4:30 Special” on Springbok Radio in the ’70’s and in his many columns.