Jazz legend celebrates birthday in fine style

Jazz maestro Andile Yenana performs at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival
Jazz maestro Andile Yenana performs at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival
Image: Nonsindiso Qwabe

Jazz pianist Andile Yenana ushered in his half-century birthday celebration by sharing his latest compositions at his Umnqgonqgo Wabantu show at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) yesterday afternoon.

The King William’s Town-born maestro delivered a few of his timeless hits from traditional Xhosa initiation songs to Africa-inspired items from his travels across the continent.

Yenana was selected as the 2005 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz during that year’s National Arts festival, where he presented his solo music for the first time. Since then, he has become a household name in the African jazz community.

The audience was treated to 60 minutes of colourful jazz tones as Yenana and his well-ranged orchestra band wowed the crowd with a repertoire of the pianist’s evocative and soulful hits.

Yenana was soft-spoken and said little throughout the show, but came alive each time his fingers hit the keys. He had the audience begging for more and was coerced into treating the crowd with an additional song, before taking a bow and calling it a day.

Speaking to the Dispatch, he said he found it a great privilege to be able to share his music and passion for jazz with South African audiences years after he first began.

“Today was yet again perfect in many ways. I always strive to share my passion and music with audiences.

“I’m turning 50 this year and it’s quite a milestone for me. The celebrations are just beginning,” he said.

A mesmerised Mathepelo Wesinyane said: “I relate to jazz on a deeper level because I’ve been listening to it from a young age, and this show was absolutely great. It’s always nice to see a legend share the stage with youngsters, working together.”

Nimi Hoffman described the show as “going to church”.

“It’s one of those things you cannot fully capture in words. What an emotional show. There’s something special about music from this part of the world,” she said.