Mandisi Dyantyis's debut album influenced by Bay childhood
World-renowned artist Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain artist when we grow up.” New Brighton-born jazzman Mandisi Dyantyis, 35, took his childhood musical influence and ran with it.
The proof of his long-standing and multiple artistic skills may be found in the singer’s debut album, Somandla.
Even with no knowledge of Dyantyis’s history of growing up singing in a church choir while pursuing classical music lessons at Pearson High School, the listener, if attentive enough, would be able to spot the influence his childhood has had on his music by listening to the single, Somandla, off the album.
In the single, Dyantyis seeks guidance from his creator as he attempts to manoeuvre life. Although a jazz song, it carries attributes of the Christian gospel in its lyrics while his voice gives away the singer’s classical music experience.
The former ‘Pearsonite’ started playing the trumpet when he was just eight years old.
“I learnt to play at church from Mthetheleli Memani, my first teacher, and Buyile Dingaan, my first musical mentor.
“[When I started] it was just me following my sister and cousins, who were already playing because they were older than me. “We were taught a lot about discipline from a young age, which is what has carried me all these years,” Dyantyis said.
His love for music saw him pursue tertiary studies and obtain a BMus Honours degree in jazz studies from the University of Cape Town in 2005.
The artist possesses skills in composing, arranging and producing not only in jazz but in western classical and African indigenous music as well.
Along with his experience of collaborating with jazz music legends, including Jimmy Dludlu, The Abdullah Ibrahim Big Band, Robbie Jansen, Max Vidima and Moreira Chonguica, Dyantyis has poured all his acquired knowledge and skills into the album.
Mingling themes of love, loss, social issues, contentment and the search for closure, the album brings relatable content to the general audience.
Somandla is a predominantly vernacular album in which Dyantyis impressively articulates himself in his mother tongue of isiXhosa.
Vividly painting life in the Port Elizabeth townships in the single, Molo Sisi (Hello Lady), he tells of the kind of romance he idolised and witnessed in the townships in the past.
“Growing up in PE, those people who dressed well and spoke nicely with girls were referred to as ‘amaPeter’ and they were my role models.“Men in those days used to sing love songs for girls and now that doesn’t happen anymore, so I decided to write this love song,” Dyantyis said.
“Molo sisi. Kunjani? Uphilile na? Bendicel’ umzuzu wokuthetha nawe mna (Hello lady. How are you? Are you well? May I have a minute to talk to you?),” he sings in Molo Sisi.
Somandla contains tracks that are more traditional gospel, some that have elements of Afro-pop, and tracks that speak directly to the jazz and afro-jazz audience.
“It has been a humbling experience since the album [was] released – people have really connected with the spirit of the album and it’s made them proud of the IsiXhosa language,” he said. “They’ve gravitated towards the melodies of the album. “Someone said it paints a picture of a time past, but with a fresh pair of eyes.”
Dyantyis is the musical director for theatre company Isango Ensemble (formerly Portobello). He has held the position for the past 11 years and has travelled around the globe as its musical director. He will soon be touring Europe again with the company.
Somandla is available on various digital music platforms...