Legendary cousins of jazz
TWO exceptionally talented jazz cousins will be reunited at a festival later this month.
The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz will be bringing together paternal cousins Vusi Khumalo and Bakithi Kumalo.
The two have jammed together before - on the initial Graceland tour in the 1980s - and look forward to catching up with family and music.
I heard about bassist Bakithi from a colleague. She told me about the contribution he made to the music industry, especially overseas. After doing a little homework on him I realised he was one of those "forgotten" music maestros.
I found out he was living in Pennsylvania in the US, so I phoned him. Because of the time difference I could not reach him, but he surprised me when he called me back.
"Hello, sisi, this is Bakithi and I understand you tried to call me."
He told me how excited he was to perform in the country that groomed him.
"With all the buzz and the anticipation building up to the actual event it should be fun," he said.
Bakithi, besides being a bassist, is also a vocalist and composer and has been performing around the world with artists such as Paul Simon, Josh Groban and Chaka Khan.
He has just returned from the Graceland Revival tour.
He has been living in the US for the past 25 years, but says he still misses home.
Living in South Africa, his cousin Vusi, who is a drummer, has done his own share of globe-trotting in recent years. He moved to the US in the 1980s and came back to SA in the late 1990s.
I had the opportunity to meet him at one of Johannesburg's live jazz lounges.
What stood out about him was his sophisticated dress sense that embodied the 1950s. He wore a pair of designer jeans, a red shirt and a long black coat. He finished the look with designer sunglasses.
He is also a mentor for many young talented musicians.
"I try my very best to groom young talented artists. I know from experience that this is not an easy industry to crack, even with the best talent around."
In his spare time Vusi collects art. "I hang around with a lot of local artists, and I also read the Bible," he says.
The two have more than 30 years experience in the industry, both locally and internationally. They grew up together in Alexandra and are original members of the Paul Simon's Grammy-winning Graceland album. Their talents and love for music keeps pulling these two maestros together.
Catch the cousins on the Bassline stage in Newtown Precinct from August 23 to 25.