Port Elizabeth jazz outfit VuDu were in disbelief when it was announced earlier this week that they were this year’s espYoungLegends competition winners, earning them a slot at the international Cape Town Jazz Festival next year.
With one bandmate missing, the neo-soul group was surprised by festival director Billy Domingo, who entered a boardroom at the Radisson Blu midway through the group’s interview with Weekend Post.
The band was being interviewed about being in the top five of the competition.
Domingo walked into the room and listened to the conversation before Asking the band the why they thought they stood a chance of winning.
Unknowingly, guitarist, Kristo Zondagh said: “We’ve got something unique to offer.
“We’ve got a unique sound and I think we’re not doing what everyone else is doing.”
Domingo asked if the Zondagh liked the festival and what it stood for before announcing who he was and why he was there.
“My name is Billy Domingo and I own the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and I flew in here to tell you you’ve won and you are my artist of choice,” Domingo said.
After hearing the news, the guys called vocalist Sisanda “Sid” Myataza, who was in Cape Town, and told her they had won the competition.
VuDu, a fusion of traditional American and African jazz with urban contemporary genres, was formed in 2009 at the Radisson Blu but over the years, the faces of the band have changed. It now it consists of Myataza on vocals, Zondagh, Grant Allison – who plays bass guitar – and pianoman Wesley Keet.
Domingo, who started the talent search competition that launched stars such as Rebecca Malope from the competition Shell Road to Fame, said he had seen something in the group that made him want to go on the musical journey with them.
Domingo said: “I saw something in you that not only spoke to the demographics of the band but the sound.
“I also see there’ll be challenges but like you say, you’re a band who can interchange and bring in artists.”
Domingo, who was born in PE’s northern areas, said being from the Eastern Cape was irrelevant and had no bearing on VuDu being chosen as this year’s winners, but that VuDu had something he liked.
With more than 2000 press expected to attend the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Domingo said VuDu would receive more than enough coverage.
Zondagh described how the band came about and said their journey as VuDu had actually started at the hotel with its previous band members.
“When the hotel was being built, our bassist then, Alec Mackay, was staying with the main contractor of the building and he mentioned they were looking for someone to play at the hotel and from then onwards we started making our own music, playing at clubs, weddings and later on, these guys joined,” Zondagh said.
Allison, a former member of The New Afro Teens, took over from Mackay as the bass player.
He said he was still in his first year at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University when he first linked up with the band and had initially thought it would be a temporary gig.
“I had to fill in for Alec for one gig but he was in his third year and I think things got pretty hectic for him with his studies because I’ve been with the band ever since,” Allison said.
Keet said their sound started off experimental but later developed into more “new jazz, neo-soul infused or inspired by Erykah Badu and Robert Glasper”.
“We still improvise but that stuff was also influenced by Marcus Wyatt but our sound is contemporary African Jazz, not the traditional Afro-jazz,” Keet said.
Besides performances as a band, the members are also busy with solo projects.
Myataza released her EP, Umlondikazi, this year, Zondagh had been playing guitar mainly for Stuart Reece. Keet played for contracts in Asia and Allison is involved in a house group, Soul Deep, performing with Asanda Mqiki and recently did the Divas in Spring Concert.
Zondagh said Myataza had contacted them about entering the espYoungLegends competition and said he did not expect even to be considered.
“We got into the top 20 about two months ago, up against these crazy cool bands and when we found out there was a voting process involved.
“We thought we had even less of a chance. But somehow, we got the news we were in the top five,” Zondagh said.
Allison said by the top five stage they had a good online presence, which he credits to them getting that far and also having “a good EP out and a good music video”.
“We released our EP at the end of 2014, called Better Late Than Never.
“We’ve got another EP with the previous members called The Birth of a New Sound, which hinted to the sound we’ve got now,” Zondagh said.