From PE to all that jazz

MAKING MUSIC: Jazz vocalist and pianist Nomfundo Xaluva, is busy producing her second album
MAKING MUSIC: Jazz vocalist and pianist Nomfundo Xaluva, is busy producing her second album

Former VG headgirl shines in sold-out performances on Festival stage

ARTS Festival visitors did not need gluhwein, butternut soup or hot chocolate to keep them warm last week in Grahamstown: all they needed was to book a ticket to one of dozens of red-hot jazz shows.

And one of the hottest tickets was for “home girl” Nomfundo Xaluva, the Port Elizabeth-born singer and musician who was headgirl of Victoria Girls High School in 2002.

With her mother, sister and high school music teacher in the audience, the dynamic jazz diva had strong hometown support for her sold-out performances at a Diocesan School for Girls venue.

“Welcome to my home, my music is my home and I feel like you are in my lounge,” she told her audience last week during her second year on the festival jazz stage.

“Songs are stories for the ear” Xaluva believes, and today, armed with an MA in jazz studies, she teaches and tells these stories at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts in Cape Town.

Several of her students, who she encourages to compose and perform, were also in the audience.

“One of the things about being a songwriter is putting yourself out there. It makes you an artist because people can feel the authenticity,” she said.

“I encourage my students to write the song and to sing it. If we don’t have the ears to listen to our music, what would we do?”

Her former music teacher, Denise Lesar, was also in the audience.

Lesar retired at the end of last year with good memories of her former pupil and was thrilled when she popped up as a surprise guest at her farewell party.

“She was a dream to teach,” Lesar said of the strong-voiced musician, who showed leadership qualities from early on.

Xaluva said it was “really beautiful” to be back on familiar turf, especially as “a lot of the material will be on my next album and it was great to see it was so well received.

“I’m that much more amped to get into the studio to record it later this month!” she said of her new album, From Now On, a follow up to Kusile.

Last week she shared the spotlight with five other jazz artists.

“Jazz is a collaborative art form and it is so good to play with musicians who bring good vibes and leave their egos at the door,” she said, complimenting her backing band on their skills.

And what a band it was, with visitors getting six for the price of one: former Standard Bank Young Artist award winner for jazz Bokani Dyer accompanied her on the keyboards, a musician she describes as “full of swag and my brother from another mother”.

Another former Port Elizabeth talent, double bass player Romy Brauteseth was “a good friend and we work together often,” Xaluva said.

British sax player Bernard van Rossum, Dutch drummer Joost Lijbaart and South African-born, Dutch-based Vuma Ian Levin on electric guitar rounded out the evening of “lounge” music with a difference.

  • Look out for From Now On from the end of September.

-Gillian McAinsh

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