Born to Be Black

The third instalment of Born To Be Black takes place at The Orbit in Braamfontein.
The third instalment of Born To Be Black takes place at The Orbit in Braamfontein.

Johannesburg’s premier jazz venue, The Orbit, in conjunction with Concerts SA, hosts the third instalment of Born To Be Black n Friday 11th and Saturday 12 February.

This collaborator endeavour promises an evening of musical fireworks in the form of inter-generational musical dialogue between the intense piano improvisations of Andile Yenana, the sultry sounds of US born tenor reed man Salim Washington and the extraordinary dynamic range of South African percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo, who played a pivotal role in the influential community of South African exiles who transformed the evolution of British jazz from the 70’s. All three remain massive figures in the South African music landscape and this progressive collaboration of masters is also paired with the audacious and far-reaching musical musings of the Amandla Freedom Ensemble, led by young trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni.

Born To Be Black is a vision which encompasses the echoes of South African township groove and no-holds-barred freedom alongside the vibrant and mesmerising chants of the drums. In the rich jazz history of old lions making inspired new music with a young ones, Born To Be Black is in every way a proclamation of our rich musical history.

Louis Moholo, sole surviving member of influential jazz band The Blue Notes.
Louis Moholo, sole surviving member of influential jazz band The Blue Notes.

Veteran drummer Louis Tebogo Moholo-Moholo captured this rampaging spirit with his old band, The Blue Notes, and as the last surviving member of the multi-racial South African émigré band, The Blue Notes, whose freewheeling spirit was such a seismic force in late 1960s London jazz scene. The Cape Town-born drummer returned to his homeland in 2005 and is reliving the anthemic themes and freewheeling improvisations that will be delivered by an exceptional assemblage of young and old.

Considered one of the hardest working young jazzmen in Joburg today, 29-year old Mandla Mlangeni has been lauded for the socio-political savvy he brings to his music. He composes music bent on confronting the charged and often contentious spirit of the times: The land, the people and the passion these variables inspire in public discourse inform his wide musical vision.

For Salim Washington, the fascination with South Africa began with Gil Scott-Heron’s hit record, Johannesburg, about the aftermath of the 1976 riots in Soweto. He found similarities in the cultures and histories of South Africans and African Americans. Later he was introduced to the music of Chris McGregor, and learned more about South African jazz musicians in exile, “I was just flabbergasted that there was a place where people played jazz at that advanced level.” He felt a visceral connection and hoped that one day he would make his way there to be closer to his roots, culture and people.

It would take thirty-three years until Salim’s first visit to South Africa, when he was invited to teach at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2009. After returning to New York, he continued to make visits to South Africa. In 2013, he became a full-time professor in the Music Department at UKZN. “This feels like home,” he reflects, “This is home. I am home.”

Sought after pianist Andile Yenana has made an indelible mark- switching from teaching to studying jazz and producing and working with many South African as well as international artists. While studying music under Darius Brubeck at the University of KwaZulu-Natal he became friends with saxophonist Zim Ngqawana and trumpeter Feya Faku. He joined Zim Ngqawana’s quartet and worked with Zim Ngqawana on all 5 of his albums, on the pan-African music project Mahube with Steve Dyer and others and as arranger for many artists. Performer, educator, mentor, producer and arranger, this award winning artist is always in the groove.

Date: 11 and 12 February
Time: 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Phone: 011 339 66 45
The Orbit, 81 De Korte Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg


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