Nduduzo Makhathini – uNomkhubulwane (ENG Review)

Blue Note – Street Date June 7th 2024
Nduduzo Makhathini - uNomkhubulwane

African and mystical jazz, this is the proposal of the Blue Note label which will land on your decks on June 7, Nduduzo Makhathini grew up in the lush and rugged hills of umGungundlovu in South Africa, The church also played a role in Makhathini’s musical understanding, as he jumped from church to church in his youth seeking only music. South African jazz legends are also profound influences, including Bheki Mseleku, Moses Molelekwa and Abdullah Ibrahim. “The first musicians put a lot of emotion into the music they played,” he says. “I think it may also be linked to the political climate of the time. I also think that there is a uniqueness in South African jazz that has sparked interest all over the world and that we are gradually losing that in our music today as well. Personally, I think our generation needs to be very conscious of retaining these nuances in the music we play today. It is important to know these elements in order to be able to approach the music of Nduduzo Makhathini which is therefore the cultural and intellectual foundation of the approach of this composer who we can say is certainly the most eminent representative of African jazz, uNomkhubulwane goes beyond all notion existing musical creation to offer his most profound vision of creative mysticism to date. Here, the pianist seeks inspiration on a completely metaphysical level — using sound as a way to commune with, as he puts it, “supernatural voices.” The three-movement suite takes its title from the Zulu name for “the only daughter of God and a manifestation of the very purpose of God’s creation,” explains the pianist. “She is also considered a mythical rain goddess, a regulator of nature, light and fertility”. A changing force, uNomkhubulwane can manifest as an animal, a hurricane or a rainbow — the latter symbolizing, according to Makhathini, his “kindness and regulation of balance.” Kindness is indeed what emerges from this work, an Africanness which invites us to share, to travel, let’s enjoy the voice, the rhythms of the sometimes repetitive and captivating characters, there is material here to love and to reflect, the three movements of the project are a kind of path towards the igniting of the spirit of uNomkhubulwane — the three being a number of power and monumental significance in Africa. “In Yoruba cosmology,” says Makhathini, “the number 3 represents balance and harmony [characteristics of uNomkhubulwane]. Broader African worldviews associate the number 3 with infinity, immortality and continuity through a threefold state of being; before [the ancestors], here [the living] and the future [the not-yet-born].” The number three is directly indicated in the music of Makhathini’s new suite — in the group’s trio format, in the time signatures, in a delicious triplet feel. Listening to this album we may end up wondering if there is not a little South African in each of us, it is true that South Africa, torn between its colonial period and its Africanness has offered for several decades, a form of jazz apart from its usual construction, here the narrative form of Nduduzo Makhathini is certainly the most accomplished, the most profound and the sincerest form. As always, Makhathini’s message is ultimately one of perpetual optimism for his people, and for all people. “Essentially, this offering is an invitation to humanity to cultivate ways of being that aspire to freedom and balance,” he said. “Here, I invite you to a new mode of humanism oriented towards singing the songs of uNomkhubulwane.” Another remarkable album, highly “indispensable” which will offer you an incomparable sound journey, with its parts of dreams and poetry.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, May 23rd 2024

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