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South African jazz comes to town

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd May 2011 03:00 AM

HER gracious apology to the audience in which she sang to the audience set the tone for South African jazz icon, Sibongile Khumalo’s show that started an hour late, Thursday night at the Sheraton Ballroom.

HER gracious apology to the audience in which she sang to the audience set the tone for South African jazz icon, Sibongile Khumalo’s show that started an hour late, Thursday night at the Sheraton Ballroom.

By Moses Serubiri

HER gracious apology to the audience in which she sang to the audience set the tone for South African jazz icon, Sibongile Khumalo’s show that started an hour late, Thursday night at the Sheraton Ballroom.

She sang: “Good Evening everyone ... we ask for your forgiveness — it was much beyond our control ….I wish I had tea to serve you with scones.”

Throughout the evening supported by Flair, Vision Group’s magazine for the corporate woman, this buoyant gracefulness held the show together spiced by little tongue-in-cheek comments like calling the audience members all South Africans just after she had taught them the click of the Xhosa language.

“When it seems utterly impossible, it shall pass with faith,” she said introducing a gospel song, and joking about being a preacher.

Then three powerfully gymnastic voices (hers and her back-ups’) altogether rose up and filled the room, stirring it into a climax that soared above like a dense fog. It was a flurry of colourful African gospel sounds and textures. Sibongile held her hands in a prayer-like way completely entranced in the music.

As a child, Sibongile was the daughter of a music professor who constantly played opera, symphonic and traditional African music in his home. However, while he played this, her elder brother was blasting out 1950’s Miles Davis records. So, young Sibongile was caught between these two men she revered and their music.

Today, Sibongile fluidly moves between the realms of opera and African traditional singing. Seeing this conglomeration of influences is something to marvel at. During a performance of an Abdullah Ibrahim composition, Sibongile’s voice traversed the palette of especially discernible African sounds to the much higher in octave sounds of opera. In true jazz spirit, the singer soloed with her vocal instrument, improvising symphonic pieces such as Flight of The Bumble Bee by Rimsky-Korsakov and Beethoven’s Für Elise.

With a plucking hand movement, she showed us that she likes bass players, another characteristic of great jazz singers. Sibongile’s bass player is more playful around the beat which makes his instrument sound more like a baritone sax.

Couple that with her behind-the-beat phrasing and the result shines brightly. This was especially evident on The Breath Of Life, a song she had written as a lullaby for her seven months’ old grandchild. She closed her eyes and looked up, completely submerged in the music.

The show did not solely focus on jazz music, and for the few minutes she ventured into opera, two ladies seated in front of me stood up and walked out. It was a night of South African music right through, with songs by Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Abdullah Ibrahim.

A South African jive in the closing minutes was the standard of the night. Sibongile Kumalo chanted anti-apartheid music to a delicious backing beat and a lush soloing guitar played as people got up to dance reminding themselves what it is they like about South African music.

South African jazz comes to town

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