Legendary Mbambisa in town

COOL CROONER: Catch jazz legend Tete Mbambisa performing with his band at the Miriam Makeba Centre today Picture: ARYAN KAGANOF
COOL CROONER: Catch jazz legend Tete Mbambisa performing with his band at the Miriam Makeba Centre today Picture: ARYAN KAGANOF
East London jazz lovers are in for a treat today as legendary music maestro Tete Mbambisa brings his international tour to the city.

He will perform at the Miriam Makeba Centre.

The South African-United Kingdom Big Sound 2017 tour launches the legend’s latest album, One for Asa, which was recorded in the UK in 2015.

Born in East London’s Duncan Village in 1942, Mbambisa learnt to play the piano his mother had in her modest shebeen. Growing up, Mbambisa listened to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Louis Jordan and the Four Freshmen. In his teens he formed a highly successful vocal group, the Four Yanks. From these beginnings to performing on the world’s top stages, this week he and his band played at the Soweto Theatre in Johannesburg.

Mbambisa, who is now based in Cape Town, said: “East London will always be home, even though we sold our house here. I can’t wait to play for an East London audience with my awesome band.”

He will be joined by fellow South Africans saxophonist Bra Barney Rachabane and drummer Ayanda Sikade, who has played for Zim Ngqawana and Thandiswa Mazwai.

Playing alongside the all-star South African lineup are three outstanding British artists, Julian Arguelles (tenor), Chris Batchelor (trumpet) and Steve Watts (bass).

All three have been heavily influenced by exiled South African jazz musicians in London.

Now significant stylists in their own right, they perform in South Africa for the first time.

Even though he could not recall the last time he had a show in the city, Mbambisa said fans would be treated to recent and old music.

“I am old now but art is in my blood. It’s hard to forget this, and I can play the piano in the dark because I have been doing it for years,” he said.

Mbambisa said his opening song from his new album was a tribute to one of his old friends, well-known musician Pat Matshikiza.

“The song is called Blues for Pat and it’s a special song to me,” he said.

The Komani jazz pioneer, Matshikiza, who played a pivotal role in the birth and evolution of jazz passed away in 2015, aged 76.

University of Fort Hare music department head, Nduduzo Makhathini said: “This is a special moment for us as a province and as well as an institution that teaches music. Since taking over as music head, I have been putting a lot of emphasis on mentorship and the importance of having mentors come to such spaces and influence.”

The award-winning jazz musician said having Mbambisa today was symbolic.

“People such as Mbambisa define what jazz is... We are honoured,” he said.

Tickets for the show cost R100 and will be available at the door. For more details, contact 073-644-0200. —poliswap@dispatch.co.za

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