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Blind pianist and singer Yonela Mnana performs at the Sophiatown Jazz Encounters series on December 9 at 20:00 at 71 Toby Street, Sophiatown, Joburg.
Yonela Mnana grew up in Mamelodi, Pretoria. Born in the Transkei and schooled in Pietersburg, Mnana’s travels exposed him to a rich soundscape, including African and western choral styles, kwaito and R&B, soul, 90s popular music and traditional music around his missionary boarding school, Siloe.
When he enrolled for a B.Mus at the University of the Witwatersrand he studied under Marian Friedman and Malcolm Nay (for classical piano studies). Nishlyn Ramanna, Andile Yenana, Mncedi Kupa and the mentorship of bassist Jimmy Mngwandi ushered him into a real-life jazz experience.
Mnana has since played with jazz masters including Zim Ngqawana (2005-6), Feya Faku, Herbie Tsoaeli, Sydney Mnisi, Clement Benny, Marcus Wyatt, Loraine Klasen, Bheki Khoza and Barnie Rachabane. To date, he has recorded with Lex Futshane and Mandla Mlangeni’s Amandla Freedom Ensemble on their debut albums. He continually plays the Joburg, Cape Town and Durban jazz club circuit with fellow musicians and friends such as Ariel Zamonsky, Sphiwe Shiburi Sisonke Xonti, Mthunzi Mvubu, Nhlnhla Mahlangu and Lindiwe Maxolo among others.
He is embarking on so far unreleased projects with Mandla Mlangeni, Sphamandla Mdlalose, an eclectic musical endeavour with London house deejay, Q.B. Smith and school choral works with Soultee, South African School Choral Eisteddfod and Ezibeleni’s Vivacious sounds.
He teaches at Ezibeleni school for special needs while studying for his post graduate degree in music at Wits University. He has released his debut album ‘Baba’ and intends to conduct a series of promotional tours around the country.