Siphephelo Ndlovu extends frontiers of jazz

Jazz pianist and composer Siphephelo Ndlovu is inspired by traditional sounds in his music about love and sadness.
Jazz pianist and composer Siphephelo Ndlovu is inspired by traditional sounds in his music about love and sadness.

Jazz pianist and composer Siphephelo Ndlovu is one of the sparkling and exciting new voices who are helping jazz reclaim its relevance.

Ndlovu, 26, from Joburg, is ready to launch his solo career with a powerful album, Afrikanization, that is set to drop at the end of the month.

With his debut, Ndlovu, the son of the acclaimed playwright and TV producer Duma ka Ndlovu, plans to extend the frontiers of jazz with boundary-breaking music that embraces African traditional music.

The album that was recorded live in studio features talented artists like Luyanda Gogwana and Marlin Witbooi.

Ndlovu defines Afrikanization as a cosmopolitan project that is influenced by the music that he listened to when he was growing up, which has shaped the artist he is today.

He was introduced to music of artists such Busi Mhlongo, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Fela Kuti and Al Jarreau at a young age by his father.

"In Afrikanization, I am taking something that I grew up listening to, which includes maskandi and mbaqanga, and fusing it with a sound I learned in my mature times, like jazz piano that I learned at varsity," Ndlovu says.

"Putting those two sounds together is about Afrikanization of oneself. I am Afrikanization myself. I am trying to use the music we know and fuse [it] with intellectual music such as jazz, and taking it back to my roots."

Ndlovu, who holds an honours degree in music from Wits University, says he started composing the songs in 2015. The songs are inspired by themes such as love, heartbreak, happiness, sadness and identity.

"The biggest theme in the album is identity, which outlines the album but rooted from traditional sound. Even when I speak of love or sadness it's still rooted in traditional sound."

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