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South African Jazz Artist Nduduzo Makhathini Releases Highly-Anticipated Blue Note Records Debut

Listen to South African jazz artist Nduduzo Makhathini's new album 'Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds.'

South African pianist, composer, and healer Nduduzo Makhathini has released his Blue Note Records debut Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds. The 11-track album is characterized by Makhathini's trademark piano keys, hissing percussions that collide with expressive vocals. As is always the case with Makhathini's work, spirituality is a huge part of the album deals with humans' connection to the ancestors and the spiritual realm.


"I create this idea of a letter as a metaphor that there are constant letters that are sent to and from the ancestry dimensions, and we could engage those letters as some forms of technology," said the musician during a press junket at the Universal Music Group Joburg headquarter two months before the release of the album. "So that's more at a philosophical level. At a musical level, the album is really covered in quite a lot of ground in terms of the musics that exists within my culture. I was brought up in a semi-rural space. I used to herd cattle. You get bored while watching the cattle, and you start whistling. And so most of this music also tries to look at childhood and how that develops a kind of lens at which we understand life anyway, and how, in embracing childhood, we're able to understand ourselves better."

The album features the American alto saxophonist Logan Richardson with a South African band including tenor saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane, trumpeter Ndabo Zulu, bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere, drummer Ayanda Sikade, percussionist Gontse Makhene, and vocals by Msaki as well as Nduduzo's wife Omagugu Makhathini, and background vocals by their children Nailah, Thingo, and Moyo.

Makhathini who, in the last six years, has released eight albums under his label Gundu Entertainment, which he co-founded with his wife Omagugu. Ikhambi, his SAMA-winning 2018 album was released under Universal.

Through the label, Makhathini got to sign with the iconic jazz label Blue Note Records through which he released debut Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds.

Stream the album below on Apple Music and Spotify. Revisit our interview with Nduduzo Makhathini here.



Interview

Interview: Bizzle Osikoya Is the A&R Shaping the Voice of a New Generation

We caught up with the A&R expert and co-founder of The Plug Management to talk about the fast-rising demand for Nigerian music and what it takes to break out as an artist.

The meteoric rise of Nigeria's burgeoning music industry over the last few years is definitely one for the books. From high profile collaborations that have graced international charts to appearances on American late night TV and a Grammy nomination, the Nigerian sound is sitting at the epicenter of a global conversation that the world—including Queen Bey herself —seem to scrabbling to get a piece of the action.

However, way before this global infiltration and westernized conflation of Africa's assortment of genres into one Afrobeats, Bizzle Osikoya was studying Music Business in England and plotting for a way to be a part of what he knew was inevitable. "I remember going to clubs in school and they would always play Jamaican music but rarely Nigerian songs. I knew we made good music here but I knew I couldn't sing. So I was motivated to come back, go behind the scenes, and see how we can make that crossover possible," he tells OkayAfrica.

More than a decade after making the intrepid decision to venture into A&R, helping artists find and develop their sound, Bizzle's creative genius has cascaded across different musical generations, from the piracy rife CD mix era with artists like Naeto C, Wande Coal and Dr. Sid to a streaming era populated with hits from Reekado Banks, Tiwa Savage and Davido.

Following the success of his latest project, Oxlade's Oxygene, we caught up with the A&R expert and co-founder of the Plug Management—a talent management company that has managed Davido, Peruzzi and DJ Obi—to talk about what it takes to break out as an artist, the fast-rising demand for Nigerian music, and how "alté" is not the same thing as alternative music.

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