In Conversation with Mandla Mlangeni: 'Jazz music was also considered pop music at some time. It was music for the youth.'
Meet Mandla Mlangeni—the South African trumpeter who took home the prestigious 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist Award.
Mandla Mlangeni is a jazz musician and trumpeter whose Cape Town-based collective, the Tune and Recreation Committee, has released two albums to date including Voices of Our Vision back in 2017 and more recently, Afrika Grooves.
Mlangeni's sound is markedly intentional and seeks to explore the cultural diversity of the African continent in all its glory. He also challenges his listeners and brings varied socio-political challenges and histories to the fore whilst simultaneously creating a refuge in music as a whole.
Born-and-raised in Soweto and a music composition graduate of the University of Cape Town, Mlangeni is the recipient of the prestigious Standard Bank's 2019 Young Artist Award and performed at its annual jazz festival.
An exceptional trumpeter, Mlangeni began studying music at an under-resourced school as a young boy. The waiting list for instruments, the saxophone in particular, was incredibly long and he would have had to wait a couple more months for his turn were it not for one of his teachers who kept a trumpet in the boot of his car. Mlangeni began playing the trumpet at 14 and he's been playing it ever since.
Growing up with the sounds of jazz emanating from his neighbor's house introduced him to the genre and its numerous artists. Not one to be bound by strict categorizations, Mlangeni says, "I don't think I'm only a trumpeter. I think of myself as a musician and as an artist, and I use music as a canvas to paint."
Mlangeni has performed alongside the likes of South African jazz veteran Hugh Masekela, kwela and mbaqanga music great Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse and saxophonist Khaya Mahlangu—to name but a few music giants.
We caught up with him to talk about being a young musician in a genre often steeped in misconceptions and stereotypes, his current projects and what it feels like to be at the prime of his music career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.