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Nduduzo Makhatini inaugurates Blue Note Africa

  • Nduduzo Makhathini in the spotlight

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The South African pianist, composer – and healer Nduduzo Makhathini spell “In The Spirit of Ntuhis tenth album, the second for the Blue Note label, after “Modes of Communication” which the New York Times cited among the best albums of 2020. It inaugurates the Blue Note Africa banner.

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Nduduzo Makhathini condenses the themes and musical directions explored in his first records on this new ten-track album that is both very dense and accessible. “I felt the need to kind of wrap up what I’ve been able to do so far and put it into more context” he explains. A central figure in the vibrant local jazz scene, Nduduzo Makhathini has brought together some of South Africa’s most exciting young musicians: saxophonist Linda Silkhakhanethe trumpeter Robin Fassie Kockthe vibraphonist Dylan Tabisherthe bass-player Stephen de Souzathe percussionist Gontse Makhene and the drummer Dane Parisas well as the singers Omagugu and Anna Widauer and the American saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.

Addressing concepts such as “active listening”, “major and minor rhythms”, “guided mobility” and the “ritualism”, Nduduzo Makhathini is inspired by his knowledge of Zulu traditions and uses his intellectual curiosity to feed his musical subject. “I confront these cosmological ideas in order to situate jazz in our context”, he says*. “On my album “Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds” (Blue Note, 2020), I used epistolary relationships as a metaphor for the sounds that come from the underworlds*. Before that, I had released “Listening to the Ground” (Gundu, 2015) which was interested in the question of listening as knowing.In The Spirit of Ntu” invites you to listen to the sounds that emerge from the ground. Ntu is an ancient African philosophy from which comes the notion of Ubuntu which says “I am because you are”. It is a profound invocation of the collective.”




55 mins

The wise tell us that our essence is strength – what our ancestors called Ntuwrites Nduduzo Makhathini in the liner notes of the album, Ntu is where our whole being resides, everything is interconnected there.”

In the same way, Nduduzo Makhathini develops his music from the sound worlds he created for his previous albums; he uses the ideas, practices and experiences of pre-colonial Africa to design new ways of healing, feeling and existing. “I manipulate things I have in my memory until they begin to reveal new ideas, he said, my improvisation has as its object the search for this moment of revelation… or in the African context, of divination”

This propensity to revisit and reinvent is particularly illustrated on Re-Amathambo, a new version of a track from her 2018 album “Ikhambi”, which features a stunning vocal performance by Anna Widauer. Here, Nduduzo Makhathini uses the piano as a metaphor for Sangoma bones, a divination tool that symbolizes the tusks of elephants. This metaphorical approach to his instrument illustrates the ambition of Nduduzo Makhathini, who constantly seeks to compare “local” practices and “adopted” practices. “I was raised in a Christian familysays Makhathini, with this great idea that God is in heaven and leads to less attention for earthly things.”




54 mins

Nduduzo Makhathini makes subtle references to the biblical story of Ananias, Azarias and Misael (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Chaldean), whose faith enabled them to escape from a fiery furnace, together with the son of God. This symbolic notion of the return to our essence and the recomposition of beings is present on Emililweniwith American alto saxphonist Jaleel Shaw, momwith the fascinating voice of the singer Omagugu, and even more on Senze’Nina which reappropriates an “anthem” of the anti-apartheid protests.

“Senzenin? (What have we done?) is a slogan from a protest song sung during apartheidspecifies the pianist, recently this same slogan and this song were taken up to question the violence suffered by South African women. That’s when I started to tell myself that this was a question that women and black people in struggle should not ask themselves. We’ve sung this song enough to realize we didn’t do anything wrong. It has nothing to do with them but with the oppressor or men hurting women. It is they who have lost something of their being, of their essence, and which must be found. Thus, I imagined another meaning for “Senze’ Nina” by removing the question mark, and which can be translated as “rebuild us, mother”. With this meaning, the song speaks of the reconstruction of a man, more gentle and sensitive and aligned with the Ntu”




59 mins

Knowing that the notion of Ntu revolves around community, interpersonal and even inter-species relationships, the album reveals its full meaning and function: it is a soundtrack that emanates from the cracks between moments and spaces, and that seeks to redefine, recreate and reimagine through improvisational techniques.

Beyond the influence on Nduduzo Makhathini’s music of artists such as John Coltrane, Bhesi Mseleku, McCoy Tyner and Abdullah Ibrahim, “In The Spirit Of Ntu” is fundamentally inspired by South African space and territory. , and placed at the center of the country’s jazz history and repertoire.

This project was conceived during a difficult time in South Africa, a time of confusion and conflictreveals Nduduzo Makhathini, it was a new period of fires, riots and massacres. The music I composed is not meant to be the soundtrack of these fires and this violence, these sounds are part of the speech, they emanate from these burning fires until these fires go out. What remains is what these sounds seek to restore. Ntu is a creative force that prompts us to remember our essence
(excerpt from the press release)

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