The Highs and Lows of Nduduzo Makhathini’s Jazz Tunes
Music is not just an art form, it is a powerful force that exhibits itself in unique ways in all cultures around the world. In an interview with the FPA, Jazz Artist Nduduzo Makhathini discusses the history and nature of Jazz music and how music can be a spiritual experience. People look for ways to heal, feel free, and express themselves and their dreams. According to Makhathini, music helps people paint a picture of a world that they like to see. He perceives singing as a manifestation of hope, and within that concept of voice and song exists the idea of freedom.
While associating freedom with music, he highlights the role that legendary musicians have played in South Africa, especially during the Apartheid. Hugh Masakela, the great trumpeter, used music to demand and invite change into the South-African political system. Makhathini tells FPA’s Emilie Pons that music has played an important role in the African communities inside and outside Africa. Jazz in itself is a symbol of freedom for African Americans, who birthed it as a source of power and a glimpse of freedom to find strength during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Makhathini has made a major contribution to the be-famed Blue Note label, creating a corridor for African musicians to enter into the mainstream American Jazz industry. While discussing how powerfully symbolic music can be for nations, according to Makhathini Jazz is considered an African-American art form, yet a child of Africa. Many Jazz artists come from Africa and ‘I think Jazz is much younger than the Jazziness that is found in African indigenous music.’ He views that the constitutive elements of Jazz, such as improvisation, syncopation and swing, were present in indigenous African music.
In a concluding remark, Makhathini expresses that his music, like other legends, embraces duality. Through the highs and lows of his tunes, the listener experiences being in one place and simultaneously invoking a utopian world. His new album titled ‘The Spirit of Ntu’ is a summarization of grand narratives around feeling greater than your physical beings in the pursuit of your dreams.