The 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Sisonke Xonti is set to launch his new and much-anticipated record, uGaba The Migration this summer on 13 November 2020. For the Cape Town born Xonti, the much anticipated and equally refreshing record comes after a long challenging year that has been transformational and rewarding too.
The silencing power of the pandemic has been demanding for a young saxophonist and composer in the process of developing his voice. However, Xonti has persevered, living up to possibilities of what IT CAN BE!
The result is a record packed with a lush and intense bouquet of nine self-reflective tunes. The music is as rooted as it is searching.
The title of the album, uGaba The Migration, refers to Xonti’s personal journey of growing and its related alchemy of change and reformation. The record is built around a four-track suite that studies the various stages of change: Part 1- Migredo, Part 2 – Albedo, Part 3 – Citrinatus, and Part 4 – Rubedo.
He opens the record with a dirge titled Minneapolis; which offers hope following the murder of George Floyd by police in the American city. Nomalungelo and The Call are respectively registering a voice against corrupt and self-serving leadership, and a rallying call in support of the many who have been adversely affected by the Covid19 pandemic.
In many ways, Xonti’s ascent to the limelight as a notable jazz musician has been a celebration of the traditions, teachers and mentors under whose guidance he has grown. He is now lifting off into his own, Sinivile is a track that memorializes this coming of age.
“I’ve had the honour and privilege to have been mentored and tutored by some of the best musicians in S.A but I found in all of that I sometimes was held back from fully expressing myself creatively. So it’s essentially saying to them thank you but let me express myself and let me make my own mistakes and learn from them,” says Xonti.
Sisonke emerges as one of the most compelling saxophonists and composers of his generation. This in an age that is not short of brilliant jazz players coming to the fore.
On this sophomore outing as a leader, he shares the horn line with the brilliant and unassuming Sakhile Simane on trumpet. The recording features Yonela Mnana on piano and vocals, 2017 SBYA for jazz, bassist Benjamin Jephta along with Siphelelo Mazibuko as the main rhythm section. They handle all tracks except The Call and Nomalungelo. They defer to Vuyo Manyike on electric bass, Leagan Breda on drums with Lwanda Gogwana taking over trumpet duty from Simane. The Call also includes vocalist Keorapetse Koloane. She is emerging as the most brilliant offer of promise this year in jazz; thanks in part to her masterful performance at the National Arts Festival last winter. Master percussionist, Tlale Makhene lands his pulse to the entire record. His touch provides a steady step, scattle and scamper, ever reliable and challenging like a guide among the fire of a youthful and inspired ensemble.
“Over the years, we’ve seen and marvelled at how receiving the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards has helped to grow promising creatives into mature artists. This year, the pandemic created extra ordinary conditions and demands for Sisonke Xonti and his peers to become more. He has risen to the challenge with clarity and rigor,” says Standard Bank Head of Sponsorship and Events, Desiree Pooe.
“Xonti’s album is an impressive example of a young artist daring to answer the call to grow in challenging times. We are proud to walk this journey with him to make his dream possible,” concludes Pooe.
Xonti will lead his band to launch uGaba The Migration on 13 November 2020 in Cape Town.