Nduduzo Makhathini photo courtesy of Nicole Adriani Music
Saturday, July 1, 6:30pm & 9pm
The Royal Room
5000 Rainier Ave S
BY HENRY COBA
Nduduzo Makhathini weaves together a beautiful mix of spirituality, jazz, humanism, and probing emotions. Hailing from uMgungundlovu, in South Africa, Makhathini is an award-winning pianist, improviser, composer, healer, scholar, and a prominent change-maker in South Africa’s jazz and wider music scene.
Makhathini is inspired by his hometown—the site of a Zulu kingdom—a place where music and its essential healing energies are fundamental facets in the community. It’s important to note that the Zulu believe deeply in music for its ability to both heal and motivate. This deep-rooted synergy is key to understanding Makhathini’s artistic vision.
Makhathini’s musical awareness includes the sounds of the churches that he ventured between in his younger days. He would often leave before the sermon began, which is the tale behind his composition “There’s Another Church Up the Road.”
Guided by illustrious South African jazz figures such as Bheki Mseleku, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, and Abdullah Ibrahim, Makhathini also cites John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Randy Weston, and Don Pullen as noteworthy American influences in his musical journey.
An active educator and researcher, Makhathini is also the head of the music department at University of Fort Hare in Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa. His research focuses on the connections between music and spirituality and the wide-reaching historiographies of jazz in South Africa. He completed his diploma in jazz piano at Durban University of Technology in 2005 and earned a Ph.D in music from the University of Stellenbosch in 2023.
In 2019, he made his debut appearances in New York City at the Blue Note Jazz Club and Jazz at Lincoln Center where he was a featured guest artist with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Makhathini is an admired colleague of Marsalis, Stefon Harris, Shabaka Hutchings, Black Coffee, Somi, Jaleel Shaw, among others.
In 2014, Nduduzo and his wife Omagugu Makhathini founded the label Gundu Entertainment. Since then, Makhathini has released eight of his own albums. His 2017 album Ikhambi won Best Jazz Album at the South African Music Awards.
In 2017, Makhathini offered a talk through TEDxGaborone that examined connections between improvised music and divination as a forward-looking way of inspecting presentations and articulations of advanced approaches to ubungoma in this generation.
According to oral historian Senzo “Maswidi” Mkhanyiseni Mbatha, Ntu is regarded as the ancestor of all African people. Makhathini’s 2022 release, In the Spirit of Ntu, is a potent mix of emotions, urgency, vulnerability, and hope. There is beauty in the cyclical rhythms, sonic brushstrokes, percussive elements, and flowing harmonic ideas.
On July 1, Earshot Jazz presents Nduduzo Makhathini for two highly anticipated musical events at The Royal Room. Joining Makhathini in concert are Francisco Mela on drums and Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere on bass. Tickets at earshot.org.