THE MASTER’S TALENT HAS MULTIPLIED AND IS RETURNED – MUKHULU SINGLE INTERVIEW

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Mukhulu, the song, Sihle Zungu says it is the overarching philosophy in all that he thinks and does. He says that in everything he sees around him including things he reads about, the greatness of their existence, and how they affects other things, overwhelms him in a positive way. Playing and producing music, he says is a gift that he appreciates immeasurably, as it always opens up the secrets of life whenever he walks around in the musical form’s galaxy. In his music he sees other forms in perfect union and partnership with it. He says that, Mukhulu is a culmination of his experiences up to now, and that the song deeply digs down to the deepest emotions, and realities that he appreciates in life. When asked if the song only refers to his successes, says without mincing his words that it also speaks to all the sadness that he is grateful of having gone through in life. When asked about the genre that the song belongs to, he takes a deep breath as if he is figuring out where it actually fits in, and then says, “even if it sounds like a jazz ballade with connotations of Gospel music, it is a song that belongs to all people and their experiences in life, and helps them see how insignificant they are in a world and universe that allows them at its choosing to live or to die. He says that, that fact alone suggests that everyone no matter who they are must accept the moment they are in, and also learn from it. With a smile and raising his eyebrows said that there is no need for bitterness in life because it is a waste of time. Asking him about other collaborations in the future, he nods as the question is asked, and then says that all his work is already a collaboration by being given to the audience to criticize and enjoy, but he also says that regarding working with other artists, the sky is the limit [adding that, having given himself the nickname, Democracy Man]. The song is 3:31 minutes in duration, and is composed of vocals and a saxophone; and in addition is a rhythm section of a piano, drums, and the electric bass. The song starts with an intro that is vocalized by a saxophone together with an instrumental backing in the background, and then emerges a traditional structure of verse chorus, verse chorus, instrumental verse chorus, closing with the final verse that also acts as an outro. It all feels like an all male vocal group collaboration that is accompanied by a three piece band. The producer points out that, in the song one finds a traditional feel, jazz piano counterpoint, a saxophone solo, and of course the vocal harmony that gives the song a certain strength that is brought to the fore from time to time in the song’s duration. The leader uses a vocal baritone unison in the beginning to stress the word Mukhulu. He says that he used both the minor[F#m], and the major chords, that were colored by the chromatic-ism that is evident in the movements of the chorus. He stresses that the song is meant to be easy on the ear, and in the deepest of the listener’s comprehension processors. Raising his hands, signifying praises, he took a moment to thank Tribe Z for the Mukhulu collaboration, which was also his idea, and for the arrangement of the chorus.  He added that if he has brought such feel to the song, then he cannot wait to hear what he can do next. He then with a sense of gratefulness, thanked his wife for continuing to listen to his music, and for that invaluable comment she voluntarily offered after listening to the song by accident for the first time, and also for harming it sometimes. He finally closed by saying that, after being given permission to work on such a song [talent], he now gives it back to the master, the listeners, as a multiplied talent.

The single is going to be released tomorrow, 18 May 2018, in most online international music streaming and download media outlets.

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“Taking A Walk” Song Analysis

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Taking A Walk”, is a song that will be part of Sihle Zungu’s upcoming album, titled, A Collective Heritage, Sounds and Songs. “It is another song that I enjoyed making”, he says this with a bit of an appreciative smile. He deliberately placed this song after the track titled, Umthandazo (Prayer), and he says he did this because his album is like a theater play with a story that has a beginning and an end.

The four four song features horns, and a rhythm section with a piano, drums, and an upright bass. He says that, it is one of those songs that he went all out to plan, having the actual idea of the song structure as an inspiration. “I wanted to have an elaborate slow tempo song introduction that is different from the rest of the song, and that uses different chord scales, starting from G Minor, to A Minor, to A Flat Minor, back to A Minor and G Minor, to E Minor, to F Major, again toggling between E Minor and F Major, and lastly ending up in F Major. All this happens within the energy that comes out strongly as a result of a trio of horns that is in harmony, supporting the scale’s back and forth movements. A little something of F Major’s contrary motion suddenly appears at 1:04 minutes, and becomes a breath of fresh air, taking away any slight likelihood of the very much feared boredom. The drum in the intro had to lack pattern, he adds. Just when you think that the intro is settling down, the trumpet comes in at 1:20, as if it is seeking attention, and also having an important message that needs to be heard. This announcement leads to that message, the walking bass swing head in B Flat. The rest of the song, which continues to be in B Flat, is over a walking bass swing, except for two in all four solos: the 16 bars of drums only, and the tenor sax solo bars. The joyful message ends with the head being repeated again. The next track in the album is Oak Tree.

The album consists of the following tracks, done exactly in this order: Journeying On, Utopia, New Beginning, Higher Ground, This Place, The Situation Right Now, Jazzy, The Last Piece (Interlude), Umthandazo, Taking A Walk, Oak Tree, Hloniphani, Corypolitan Influence, In May, and Nguwe. If I were to make a story out of the tracks’ sequence, I will say that, I am journeying on to the Utopia of the soul, and this being my new beginnings on a higher ground, and this place of dreams is a great environment all round. The situation right now, is that of a jazzy improvisation, that brings forth the last piece of the puzzle of my life, and umthandazo (speaking with the almighty in many ways) having been my pillar of strength, that has made the “taking a walk” to the unknown, bearable, and with a bit of motivators in between, that are similar to the Drakenberg goldish-reddish -yellowish Oak trees in the autumn. I would say to those that follow me, hloniphani (respect each other and your environment), because life is strange for everybody, and because of that fact, only the respect of each other and of the systems that we have put in place in order to guide us, can bring about a corypolitan influence (his new word in this album, and it means, “an influence of piece and harmony”) in our lives as societies. All my thoughts, FOR NOW, regarding this journey towards peace and harmony, end in May 2017, which also marks the finalization of “A Collective Heritage, Sounds and Songs” repertoire. All this has again been made possible by Nguwe Mdali (all mighty).

With this introduction of track number ten, Taking A Walk, and of the whole album, I hope that the listener will find this body of work interesting, and valuable to his or her growth and enjoyment in life.”, he said.

This album is still in some way a collaboration, as a result of Journeying On (band by Mondli Ngcobo – Music Director, Mxolisi Mdlalose -Alto Sax, Lindi Ngonelo – Keys, Leeroy Khumalo – Drums, and Siyabonga Mkhize – Electric Bass), Jazzy (band by, Mxolisi Mdlalose -Alto Sax, Lindi Ngonelo – Keys, Leeroy Khumalo – Drums, and Siyabonga Mkhize – Electric Bass), New Beginning (band by, Mondli Ngcobo – Music Director, Ndu Shezi – Vocal, Mxolisi Mdlalose -Tenor Sax, Lindi Ngonelo – Keys, Sidney Rash – Drums, and Ildo Nandja – Upright Bass), and This Place (Mondli Ngcobo – Music Director, and all digital instruments played by Lindi Ngonelo).

The fifteen tracks offer jazz quartets, larger jazz and other ensembles that feature horns, vocal harmonies, jazz female vocal, male vocals, and everything with strings in between. The theme of the album can be thought of as being that of horns, as they appear in over seventy three percent of the fifteen songs.

A sneak peek at the album is currently available on soundcloud.com, and the rest of the fine tuned album will be available for sale, on worldwide digital music streaming and download outlets(Deezer, iTunes, Tidal, Amazon, CD Baby, etc.), between the end of the second quarter, and the beginning of the third quarter of 2017.

Sihle Zungu, Joco when working without collaborating,  has worked also on the following albums: Journeying On Live by Journeying On, Sihle’s project band (http://www.deezer.com/album/7473676); Sunny Day by Joco (http://www.deezer.com/album/11523374); Another One Man Band by Joco (http://www.deezer.com/album/14412676); and On Akdeniz Caddesi by Joco (http://www.deezer.com/album/14666584).

Published by zungus’s blog, an online publication by Joco Publishing.

Another One Man Band

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Another One Man Band. Joco talks about his latest music album

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Photo: Courtesy of Joco Publishing

Towards the end of 2015, Joco released an EP music album, titled, Sunny Day; He now returns in 2016, as he promised, with “Another One Man Band”, a full album that has a total of 19 tracks, and which also incorporates four tracks from Sunny Day.

Joco, in this album, went all out for his audience, in a style or a genre that he calls, Digital Jazz Fusion. Some have suggested that his music somehow also belongs to World music. He calls his music digital jazz fusion because the musical instruments he used were all sourced from his computer studio software, and also with a jazz kind of sound that also incorporated other instruments that are not commonly used in traditional jazz. The Another One Man Band repertoire includes: 1 Small Space; 2 Sunny Day; 3 A twist in the tale; 4 DigiRetro; 5 Grandma’s Tunes; 6 The situation right now; 7 Coded; 8 Durban Blues; 9 Here we go again; 10 Ukube; 11 I wanna listen; 12 One more Day; 13 Dance it out; 14 Bitter Tea; 15 One for the road (Interlude); 16 Busy Streets; 17 Ancient City Vibe; 18 Priceless moments; and 19 Sunny Day (Reprise). His album is a journey in his growth as an artist, with the first song in his repertoire, signifying his beginnings, and the latter songs his maturity. He has grown in terms of, technique, the choice of chords he uses, choice of instruments, and the nature of arrangements. He adds that, some of the songs in the album were influenced by his recent trip to Istanbul, where you find some of the tracks, like Busy Streets, Ancient City Vibe, One more day, and Bitter Tea capturing the mood around it. One of the artists that have a peculiar command for the voice and technique in South Africa, he features in this album, is Ndu Shezi, on Ukube, track number 10; any listener will definitely enjoy feeling the cool breeze that her voice brings in this song. For his latest work, he says that, he was influenced a lot by Jazz artists in his country and around the world, artists like Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Paul Motian, Bayete, Themba Mkhize, Turkish music, Gospel music, and other artists in South Africa.

The Another One Man Band’s album art, shown above, is another choice that Joco had to make when thinking and looking at his latest work, and here, he uses a galaxy as signifying his place in a universe that is full of different types of music and other artists, and his contribution of songs, he says, they are stars in his galaxy, with each having planets(with different meaning for each listener) around it. This is the work of art that is none like other, but also with the familiarity that is friendly to the common ear, making it an album that belongs to this world, and hopefully also to the world to come, and of course, that is if you believe in it.

Asked about his aim, as an artist who, writes, composes, plays instruments, sings, records, mixes, and masters his albums, he said, ” I want anyone who is musical, but also engaged in other professions, and with limited access to mainstream music platforms, and those who diverted to other careers due to life constraints, when they listen to my albums, know that no one can stop them, but only themselves, on presenting their God given talents to the world”. He said that, he is assisting in opening opportunities for those artists who can afford to own, the now not so expensive, home and project studios, so that, they too, in the comfort of their different lifestyles produce the music they always wanted to do, but hindered by their other responsibilities. He says that, no music artist should be limited by the music industry’s decades entrenched “barrier to entry” traditions, and end up leaving this world without having able to present their fair social views, through their art. His latest album, when listening to it, it is like traveling on a long road with, different, beautiful, and interesting things to see.

The album will be available in all the international online music outlets and phone applications, before the end of September 2016.

Music Outlets where the album will be available: CD Baby, Itunes, Spotify, Tidal, Simfy, and other.

#DigitalJazzFusion

PASSION AND THE UNIVERSE’S SUPPORT

I ambitiously as a kid in the 80’s, like any kid would do, tried to play the beautiful cream coloured battery powered Yamaha keyboard of Baba Ngqulunga our church head leader who was also very musical, who used to put it up in the front for anyone skilled to play it, but I failed due to lack of skill. He brought it to our school-classroom-housed church congregation for some Saturdays or Sabbaths.

Later on in the church I go to, we had this Hammond organ that was donated by an elderly white brother, Mr Wessels, in 1995 when the church building had just been built. For many years it was never played by anyone and it broke the momement there was electricity to connect it to. When I was the head leader too I facilitated the repair of the organ, of which the congregation supported. I was the first person to play it while I was also busy with tons and tons of other serious duties. By this time, as a result of not being able to split myself, I had seized being a practicing musician that I was when I was younger. I learnt the basic triads and started trying my luck on the keys and the members encouraged it. I played for many years without any proper keyboard classes. I would go to Natal Technikon City Campus to do some practices of my own on student pianos and when students found me there they would chase me away. I then bought my first small Casio keyboard and tried to do more practice at home. I still could not figure out how to play what I really wanted to play, sounds that are played in gospel, jazz, pop, or other popular genres. I then took classes and that’s when things changed a bit. In between I collaborated in live music gigs, and also managed my own that always failed due to hardships that come with dealing with bands, especially when you don’t belong to the fratenity but engaged passionately in the craft. I started a project band, Journeying On, and learnt more from that practical environment. I also took more lessons and then now I could play what I always wanted to play at a reasonable level of proficiency. That congregation gave me, apart from lessons in culture and in leadership, practical lessons in music. I still play there for free every weekend coz I owe my congregation that, and because music is what I’ve always done. Through the skills I acquired in live music, in classes, and in the recording studio, I’ve trained a team of nine pa system engineers for the congregation, that are now much more autonomous.

These days when I play, something happens that never used to happen, I always meet those that wish to be taught how to play too. Thinking about it now, I’d say to anyone that, what I play is more than just the skill, althought not at the level I want to be at, but it is years of sacrifice and encouragement by others, propelled by personal passion. I’d say that do something that you are and not just something you just see people do well. If you see them doing it well and you are encouraged to try it, and it’s also your calling, then do it by all means because you won’t regret it. Today I enjoy different traditional styles I’ve learnt via the skills I collected over the years, and I always share that with people and the public, the owners of the art. For me it was a life long passion and the support of many many people including the church groups I sang and wrote music for. I’m still growing and see that everyday . Find and do what you love, and then share it with others.

ALL PEOPLE SEEM TO BE ARTISTS ENCRYPTED

 

When I look at my art, which is composed of many things, but in the lead, my music; I wonder what the people fifty to a hundred years from now will learn from me.

I am conscious of the fact that I work in an unconventional fashion due to my circumstances as an artist, as any person should be, and this allows me to do things that only a person in my capacity/circumstance can do, unique as in my physical body features, and that is a plus. Without a doubt there are definitely opportunity costs in this game of life, of art. I do not go around blaming my artistry for not following a certain popular route, because if one cannot learn that trying to change things that cannot be changed at a particular time is a waste of precious time, then that is a shame. Perhaps for most of us who do what we do, our art in many years to come becomes also a subject of psychoanalysis as a result of what is beneath it. Then at that time will people learn something from it, and maybe some will assimilate it as a result of being in similar circumstances. It is my responsibility as an artist, a person, to live the truth as it is encrypted in how the art was created.

When I look at people around me, they do things in a certain way without explaining it, and right there their art of living is encrypted, and now because of social media everyone is a documented public figure and open to unofficial research by posterity, which allows us to learn from anyone. Sometimes we think that success is learnt from the notable people who publicize their works and who have made huge monetary gain from it, but previous posterity, that is generations before us, and us, have proved this to be wrong. We have learnt the art of living from everyone that lived before us, in archaeological finds and whatever everyone left for us to learn about them. From archaeological information we can for example learn that a person died not happy about their life, or learn that they were satisfied with it. We can learn that they were rich or were poor, were kings or were subjects, were leaders or followers, worked with hands or were intellectuals, and so on. This is their art of living I suppose, and their truth. A collective DNA of humanity in every generation has their art of living encrypted. We have people that practice a certain skill with proficiency but who are not publicized, we have great speakers that are not making money of it and sometimes we see them during funerals, and in other public communities’ occasions. We have in our families, mothers, sisters, wives, and even brothers who cook good food but do not earn salaries from that art. People weave through life using their art of living, and that will always be a subject for posterity. My new play list is that subject as what you do daily is too. Check it out on, https://www.deezer.com/en/playlist/4124764862

The Church in South Africa, Music, and Black People’s Culture

I will only touch on this subject from where I’m sitting, and according to my experience as an African-Christian-cultured artist in South Africa. I will also not separate music artists according to genre because they all have faith in something or someone.

 

In the 80’s, the church I came from was western inclined, and that became our culture. We sang American white and black Christian/gospel music. We went to music shows that featured acts from America, and even our acts performed American music. The programs we had were based on the American literature, and even the vernacular writings were translated from the western texts. I would like to think that this was more prevalent in the cities, and not too much in the rural areas. This was also mirroring the rest of apartheid South Africa, where all that was west was golden. There were churches that were predominantly rooted in Africanism (there is not even this word in this computer’s dictionary, mmhh!), but those were not seen as elite. These African churches did not even have big church building that symbolized power and wealth. For their services, they would gather under the trees in open public yards, or in their members’/pastor’s house. This was looked down upon by those who were becoming more educated and elite in society. This was before 1994.

 

One day I was in church, and happened to have lunch at someone else’s house in the location, and I met a warm hearted gentleman who was a singer and guitarist, and he had his guitar with him. This gentlemen was not from our church, but came from an African rooted Christian denomination. We spoke and connected in a very good way, and we were going to go back to church for an after lunch program, and I invited him to come and maybe play if an opportunity availed itself. To cut the long story short, we were back in church and the program started, people were called to sing and that was good. They then asked my new friend to give a musical item, and he went to the stage to perform. He took his guitar with him and went to the front. He started performing a beautiful song that had an indigenous feel to it, and I was amazed all the way. What was disturbing was that the people were laughing as he was singing, and it was as if he came from a foreign land where clowns were bred. I’m not about to bash those who were laughing at him, let alone that the church had a duty to win that person, by not belittling him, as our church is a proselytizing Christian church. I felt bad because I invited the guy, genuinely loving what he was doing, having connected with him even philosophically, and he was also sitting next to me before and after he was laughed at. I suppose that life is like that, in a foreign country you become a joke because of poor vocabulary, and so my friend suffered as a result of that fact of humanity, a lack in cultural vocabulary. He gave them culture shock, while at the same time I was already matured in that direction, and the man was so genuine and confident of who he was by not even trying to convert me. He was a good man. This happened when we were already free as a country, and deep into the 2000s.

 

From 1994, the whole country began to be conscientised about Africanism, and that included churches. In the church, we, youngsters, started making our own songs and not doing covers of the western musical groups. We started believing in ourselves as Africans. We began to hear sermons about who we were in the eyes of God as black people. I would assume that in the churches that gathered under the trees and houses, there was no need for these sermons, because they already knew who they were, and were already running their show, but it will be good to hear from them as to how they really felt about their state of mind as African rooted denominations. I started writing music in 1993, influenced by the SDASA Chorale, a Johannesburg based church music male group, who were big brothers to us, and who were already writing African rooted church music. I wrote my English and isiZulu songs. The difficult part was that, in order to write an African rhythm type of music, one had to have been cultured in that manner, in denominations that gathered under the trees, the ones that were looked down upon by the elite in our black society, where my friend who was laughed at while performing in my church, might have come from. One had to be educated in that music and culture in order to be able to articulate it the right way. Colonialism created barriers even in religion. Those who never converted to Christianity were looked down upon (a friend whom his grandfather was affected directly, told me this), and even those that were converted were never allowed to worship in the way they knew how, because their ways of worship were seen as reminding them of where they came from, where the “devil” ruled totally. Their societal rituals that were part in raising children, starting new families, and so on, were detached from them as a result of the new church order. Even the respect of their superiors, symbols, systems, kings, and chiefs, was affected. The drums, the loud singing, the cries, and the clapping of hands were seen as ungodly. Instead of accepting only the Jesus philosophy (not wanting to say Christian Philosophy), they were forced to also accept the western ways of doing things. What would one expect? This was also war against the Africans, and their ways of doing things. This, of course, did not happen over night, but for at least about two centuries. It became even difficult to trace the beginnings of this acculturation of the black person towards whiteness, because of the many years it took for it to simmer towards maturity. We still never became perfectly western, but only made it to just a poor copy of it, a “bat syndrome”, not a bird and not a mouse. All the money that an African worker made was now plunged into the western economy, where the white man ruled. If you wanted to have a white wedding, you had to buy a white dress from a white person, because they alone knew how it was made so that it is perfectly western, and that was the new elite. In this way all the money that was made by a black person went to a white person through colonial goods and services. I’m not going to speak more about how we became western, but want to throw some information on how the black religion, music, and people were, or might have been affected by the west up until today.

 

Coming back to music, if you wanted to perform a good song, now a western type, you had to have a piano, or a guitar, otherwise your music was not good enough in this new western culture. It could only be the rich, who could afford these musical instruments, and so most of the black people could not afford to be elite, and if they still did western music, they could only do a poor copy of it, trying hard to use what they had in order to please the new order, of themselves converted. One would argue if it was really a poor copy of it, or their new face, a new race altogether. I battled with writing “African” music because I was never cultured in that manner, and so were most of my township peers. African to us, was whatever we knew. Religion played a big role in making us who we are, and to try and articulate some freedom culturally, if it was freedom at all, one had to sweat blood, trying in real time, to change who he is.

 

We are still caught up in not being able to learn what is African from those who were never fully colonized when it came to their religions, whether African Christian church or indigenous traditional religions. The best acculturation happens when you are in a train or a bus, when people begin to sing and pray while on their way to work and back. Again, psychologically, you can dismiss it as junk, not elite, and not learn a thing from the music that is sung during that time. Another thing is that, as soon as you try to reach out to people of other religious affiliations, they begin to proselytize, which is scary. When you begin to reach out in order to learn about what is African, and you are struck by the need for you to change to whatever their religion is in order to benefit, that is scary. This is similar to what the colonialists did when they came to South Africa, converting everyone who wanted to be sort of white as a result of the related benefits. What I’m trying to say is that, one need to accept who they are in real time, while respecting what other people do, because it is sweating blood to try and change who you are. This reminds me of DJ Black Coffee, who was recently asked by Usher, a United States artist, to do an African sound with him, and who refused based on his principle. That was interesting.

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Those who come from the African rooted denominations and are converted to western rooted Christianity, have a duty to help those who are not cultured in that manner to learn what African worship and music is, and without having any effect on their chosen philosophy. The originally western church also has a duty to separate itself from its western headquarters, but keep the humane philosophy, so that whatever it decides to do going forward, is African in a true sense. Maybe again, whatever we all are now is African in a new way, and one must try to find soulfulness in it, and not try to be somebody else.

 

I might not have done good justice in what I said here, but I’m sure there is a fair amount of truth and facts in it that are enough to spark a discussion. Currently I compose as I see fit. If I feel something African, I consider it a gift and I then write it down. I still use the western musical instruments in whatever song comes to mind because that is what I know, and for now I will consider that African, as it comes from an African, and from a well meaning heart.