'Re-imagine virtual spaces', says Nduduzo Makhathini

Nduduzo Makhathini released his latest album virtually just before lockdown was imposed. /Supplied
Nduduzo Makhathini released his latest album virtually just before lockdown was imposed. /Supplied

With the world forced into a new evolution of virtual by the Covid-19 outbreak, jazz maestro Nduduzo Makhathini has called on artists to re-imagine the virtual spaces and use them to their benefit even beyond the national lockdown era.

The Blue Note Records recruit who recently dropped his first project under the iconic label titled Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds, is among the musicians who have fully embraced technology.

He says before the coronavirus, he had been toying around with an idea of using new technology.

Makhathini's latest album was released digitally when Covid-19 outbreak started and it is doing well.

Despite losing out on international gigs which were cancelled following the outbreak and failed to get his hands on some of the R150m relief fund, Makhathini has opted to focus on the positive side of things.

The Pietermaritzburg-born singer joined the whole world last week celebrating International Jazz Day through a streamed live performance on Watcha TV.

The mini-concert comprised 45 minutes performances and also featured Tutu Puone, the South African jazz vocalist based in Belgium, Mandisi Dyantyis, and Bokani Dyer. About 1,200 people streamed live the performances.

"Any pandemic will force people to re-imagine how they lead their lives and it exposes other things that will always imagine as alternative.

"For me, there is a lot of that kind of thinking like how did we live before; how we are living now and also thinking about how are we going to live life tomorrow which is interesting for me? I imagine a space where people will not let go of the virtual space, but live in between virtual and live," Makhathini said.

Switching back to his album Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds, which looks at the ritual and seeing them as technology to communicate messages, Makhathini prophecies about the current situation facing the world.

As usual, the award-winning singer is taking jazz lovers through a journey of African cosmology and how they collapse the borders - both the physical and spiritual realms.

Unlike his previous album Ikhambi, in the new offering, Makhathini has gone deep with his spiritual exploration, exploring telepathy.

"The album was recorded in 2018, but it speaks about what is happening currently. It's something that I never knew that it would happen for sure. I believe that messages can be transferred without direct contact with another person, which is wirelessly. Even if you look at ukubhula [consulting the spirits], a sangoma derives a meaning from people who are no longer alive in a wireless form. My new album poses those questions around ritual technology."

Through his music, Makhathini emphasises a strong belief that human being senses can be heightened to prophecy the future.

"Take what is happening now with the lockdown, you are away from your family, when you miss them, you have to imagine them... I want to propose imagination as a technology and telepathy and all these wireless connotation in our evolution as human beings."

The music composer and producer says his album encourages the alertness since most important messages come through amaphupho (dreams).

"Take the song Yehlisani Umoya, it is already talking about the sicknesses that were coming and us as human beings going into a hiding place. We now understand why we should remain indoors."

In his song Umlayezo Ophuthumayo, he encourages urgency when dealing with healing messages.

With all eyes on the new Blue Note recruit if he would match the standards, Makhathini has risen to the occasion. He presents a classy fusion of many sounds, swinging beautiful African indigenous gospel, blues, straight ahead jazz and rhythm.

"It was recorded in 2018 and when I presented the album to them, they loved it. I guess it is because I always try to make sure a new product is better than the previous one."

In the album, he features his talented wife Omagugu Makhathini, whose mellow voice makes the album a beautiful listen. He admits that together with his wife, they produce magic in terms of music because they feed from each other's energy.

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