The Pianist 'Offering"
Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) is the flagship event for the leading events management and production company espAfrika, which has staged and produced several world-renowned events.
Affectionately referred to as “Africa’s Grandest Gathering”, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) is the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa. The festival, now preparing for its 17th year, is an annual event famous for delivering a star-studded line up. This proudly South African produced event is hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) each year on the last weekend of March or the first weekend of April.
1,2 April the festival annually boasts 5 stages with more than 40 artists performing over 2 nights. The programming - unique to the CTIJF is made up of a 50/50 split between South African artists and international artists respectively. The festival hosts in excess of 37, 000 music lovers over the 2 show days.
Thandi Ntuli Pianist/Vocalist/Song-writer/Composer playing piano at the age of 4. Time passing she became Award winner, Metro FM 'Best Urban Jazz' Nominee (2015), Mbokodo Award 'Women in Jazz' Winner (2015). Since then she has been going and going. And somehow I was about to blame her parents for taking her into the Jazz and about to ending up in Berkley College years ago for her studies. And has she says while smiling ‘I was offered a scholarship the Berkley in Boston but I turned it down. Purely my choice.”
Rewards and awards,
EV- How is the feeling of going back to some of those five stages?
TN- It’s really rewarding to be going back as a band leader. I had played before with other bands but itis exciting to be bringing my own music project to the festival.
EV-Did you decided to become a Jazz pianist, vocal... were you born with it or the jazz got you on the way?
TN- Jazz did find me on the way. I just remember that all I wanted to do was write music and perform it, I just didn't have the know-how on composing and for some reason I came to realize that I must learn to improvise and that would help... I didn't always know I would play jazz.
EV- Who is Thandi Ntuli the woman, the musician and your philosophy of life?
TN- I am the daughter to two of the most amazing parents, lastborn in a family where my siblings were my first role models, musician (healer....first of myself) , lover of God, life, people, great conversations...but also a bit of a loner. I'm a serial dreamer, an aspiring full time traveler and a magnificent work in progress. My philosophy in life is that I am here on this earth to serve it with my gifts and to remember that I can always get better / do better.
EV- You claim that one thing you like is to improvise. Even though is required a good technic to be a good improvise and saw it in some of your songs. Some people such as the past South African president Nelson Mandela got his freedom in 1994. What is your story of freedom within the jazz world?
TN- I think Mandela got his freedom long before he left prison, the kind of freedom that cannot be contained by prison walls. And I think that is what Jazz does for me. It helps me process parts of my human experience that are often otherwise hidden to me because of the busyness of life. But really it has helped me emancipate myself from a lot of self-inflicted oppression.
EV-I could mention Nina Simone, Alice Coltrane, Diane Schuur, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Shirley Valerie Horn, Eliane Elias Patrice Louise Geri Allen is an American composer, Diana Jean Krall, Keiko Matsui, Lynne Arriale. What are your favorite contemporary Jazz singers?
TN- I enjoy Gretchen Parlato a lot. Locally we have some gems like Nono Nkoane, Siya Makuzeni, Gabisile Motuba, and Spha Mdlalose. The list is endless.
EV- From the one existent “salted fish” how do you end up cooking it with all the ingredients -sing, compose and write your Jazz? What does guide you?
TN- I guess with one ingredient you let yourself be guided by the process of cooking the fish, not relying on what is there but on your own creativity. I am guided by The Source of my creativity and really this is how it is improvising too. Let go and trust.
EV- For how many nights and days have you been cooking your music, of course with all the ingredients?
TN- I am always cooking, never really satisfied, always refining. Even after a song has been recorded.
EV- About your debut album entitled ‘offering’. What have you been offering ?Which one is your favorite track-the tribute to your grandmother (Sangare, Umthandazo, Lonely Heart, Contemplation, H.T, Uz'ubuye, The Offering, Love Remember, In Between Spaces)?
TN- Its H.T. I used to call her that as a nickname. Her name is Helen Thembekile and she is no longer alive but I wrote the song 3 weeks before she passed.
EV- Various local and international stages, including The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, The Grahams town Youth Jazz Festival and The Calabar International Jazz Festival. And now going back to CTIJF. Are you going to take the Orbit , I mean Benjamin Jephta(Bass), Keenam Ahrends(Guitar),SPHELELO Mazibuno(Drums) Marcus Wyatt(Trumpet/flugel horn) and Spha Mdlalose( vocal) are they going to be on the stage with you?
TN- Yes they will.
EV- You did perform with a such list of some of the best Jazz musicians , from Judith Sephuma, The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Jimmy Dludlu, Thandiswa Mazwai, Nomsa Mazwai, Neo Muyanga, Marcus Wyatt, Steve Dyer, Andile Yenana, Feya Faku, Sydney Mnisi, Bheki Khoza, Themba Mkhize, Sibongile Mngoma, Swazi Dlamini, Franc Paco, Lex Futshane, Tshepo Mngoma, Mike Campbell and the UCT Big Band, Umthwakazi, Spha Mdlalose, Sandile Gontsana, Lana Crowster, Vuyo Sotashe, The Tribe of Benjamin and Lwanda Gogwana Songbook. In this line up I see only two Jazz pianists, Andile Yenana and Themba Mkhize. How was for you to perform with Neo Muyanga, mixing up from story tell, piano …?
TN- Neo taught me so much, even beyond the music. From his innovative style of arrangement to the insight he shared with me on the industry, it was amazing to work with him and have him as a mentor.
EV-Where are the Jazz female pianist and what were the piano skills of noted jazz female musicians who played jazz?
TN- They are there. Few but there. One really amazing young pianist in South Africa is Lindi Ngonelo. I love the dimension of Alice Coltrane's work; I'm also a huge fan of Gerry Allen. It’s an absolute classic and a beautiful composition. One of my favorite by Thelonious Monk. There were many other musicians including Jimmy Dludlu, Benjamin Jephta, Bokani Dyer, Sisonke Xonti and many more. Old songs, new songs and a fabulous band.
EV-Focused on modern Jazz. Anyway, the stones meet each other, but I’m still on the road looking for the other. Why only modern Jazz and who are you main Jazz icons? Or simple still looking for the other inside you. Who is the other?
TN- I just relate to modern jazz a lot. Perhaps because it reflects the times. I love Brian Blade, Terrance Blanchard, Lionel Loueke, Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire and many more.
EV-The African music essence. Not only in terms of Jazz sound, African rhythms. So what is new?
TN- Nothing is ever new in art; I think we are just finding different ways of expressing what has always been there.
EV-What comes into your head when you are on stage?
TN- I always hope the musicians are having a good time. It makes me feel nervous sometime.
EV-Looking to the musicians you played with till now, maintaining the same concept what are you trying to achieve and what can the audience expect from you on the night of your performance in the CTIJF?
TN- The sky is the limit; I want to do so many things. Well yes it can be very hard, especially if you don't know WHY you are doing it. Once that has sorted itself out, everything else becomes about the process.
EV-How do you see the South Africa music industry, market today?
TN- It’s definitely growing and more and more musicians are authentically striving to create music that does not have American identity.
EV- For the festival. What are you going to wear and your hair style?
TN- I am wearing something by South African designer, watch this space!