For the love of Africa, and all that jazz

Salim Washington, jazz saxophonist, composer, scholar and activist, will be appearing in the Afrika Love Tour on stage at The Masque Theatre this Saturday.

The Afrika Love Tour, on stage this Saturday at The Masque Theatre, promises to weave a rich tapestry of stories together.

The artists are Salim Washington, Dalisu Ndlazi, Afrika Mkhize and Simphiwe Joseph Shiburi.

Salim Washington, today a renowned jazz saxophonist-composer-scholar-activist, was the first generation in his family to born in Memphis, Tennessee, outside of the sharecropper plantations of Mississippi.

His mother sewed at the Levi’s Jeans factory, and his father worked in construction.

When his family moved to Detroit, they lived in the notorious “Black Bottom” area during the 1960-70’s Detroit riots. As a young boy in what he calls one of the most violent neighbourhoods in Detroit, he was drafted into the neighbourhood gang at the age of 9.

The leader of the gang played the trumpet and encouraged Salim to learn. Noticing the boy’s potential, the man excused him from the gang.

His defining moment came in the 1970s after hearing John Coltrane in Exotica and the Miles & Monk at Newport album.

“It was the most powerful, most intelligent and beautiful thing I have ever heard. It was about me and my experience in a much more elevated form than anything I have heard… it changed everything,” he said.

Salim entered Harvard in 1976 but dropped out to become a jazz musician.

Over the next few years, he played in many towns and cities with several bands and his interests expanded into political activism, organising protests against drug dealers in Roxbury, as well as working on support for the movement to disinvest from South Africa.

He finally returned to Harvard in 1993 and completed his PhD in 2000, while still remaining active as a performer, writer, activist and family man.

Salim’s fascination with South Africa has been long standing. It began with Gil Scott-Heron’s hit record, Johannesburg, about the aftermath of the 1976 riots in Soweto. Later he was introduced to the music of Chris McGregor, and learned more about South African jazz musicians in exile, such as Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani and others.

“I was just flabbergasted that there was a place where people played jazz at that advanced level,” he said.

He said he felt a visceral connection to South Africa, and hoped that one day he would make his way there to be closer to his roots, culture and people.

Thirty-three years would pass before Salim’s first visit, when he was invited to teach at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2009. After returning to New York, he spent the next few years actively performing, writing and teaching while continuing 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 said. “This is home. I am home.”

Young upcoming bassist and a tuba player, Dalisu Ndlazi, kicked off his musical career at the Siyakhula Community Development Centre in Umlazi, in KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2012 he was selected as the National Schools Big Band bassist at the Standard Bank Youth Jazz festival held in Grahamstown.

He held that position from 2015 to 2017.

Salim Washington has featured him in his album Sankofa.

In 2017, Dalisu obtained his national diploma in music from the UKZN.

In June 2019, Dalisu was chosen to attend a Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Camp in New Orleans where he worked with jazz icons such as Branford Marsalis and Terrence Blanchard.

Afrika Mhikezi stars in the Afrika Love Tour.

Alan Webster, National Arts Festival committee member for jazz, described the next artist, Afrika Mkhize, by saying he represents the exciting new face of South African jazz.

“I was surrounded by music at birth and never stopped loving it,” Afrika said about his journey into jazz.

At age 11, he was enrolled at the Funda Centre Music School in Soweto to study classical piano. At 15, he was accepted at the National School of the Arts to further his classical musical studies, and in 1999, he enrolled at Pretoria Technikon to further his interest in jazz, composition and arranging.

After completing his studies, he began working as a music producer, producing award-winning albums for Tlali Makhene, Themba Mkhize, Sibongile Khumalo, Kabelo from TKZ, Nokukhanya Dlamini and Miriam Makeba.

He worked as a musical director and pianist for the late Miriam Makeba, and also contributed arrangements – on her request – for the Roma Philharmonic Orchestra in Italy.

Simphiwe Joseph Shiburi is recognised as an international drummer and artist, and in 2010, he played with Bheki Khoza in SA for the World Cup.

In 2011 he went to Europe for more than a year to live in Turkey. He came back to SA in 2012 and recorded an album with Lex Futshane, Billy Monama, and shifted his focus to TV work, appearing in Gospel Time and Afro Cafe playing with African Mkhize.

The show is at 5pm on Saturday June 26 at The Masque Theatre, 97 Main Road, Muizenberg. Tickets are R120, R60 for pensioners and students. For bookings, WhatsApp 060 960 8935.

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