Nobuhle Ashanti – pianist, composer, performer – hails from Cape Town. Her musical journey performing with various ensembles has led to her very own project, Ashanti Tribe. The project’s concept and compositions are brought to life by various Cape Town-based artists. For Ashanti Tribe’s performance at the First Thursdays Sessions on 5 March the band will consist of Jodi Fredericks (vocalist), Sean Bratz (bass guitar), Kurt “Kurt B” Bowers (drums and percussion) and Nobuhle on keyboard. We asked Nobuhle a few questions in the lead up to her performance at the Gin Bar. Read on to see what she had to say.
What has your journey been as a jazz musician so far? Where did it all start? Over the past couple years, my journey in music has been a rewarding one. I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed to have had many great experiences and opportunities leading me to where I am now. With music, I have been exposed to art in its most magnificent form, and the many beautiful people placed on my path because of it.
Where did it start? My earliest memory of music was Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable, With Love” album at the age of 5 (maybe 6). Obsession would be an understatement. Over the years performing at various festivals with local ensembles, the countless workshops, masterclasses, mentors’ guidance and the consistent listening to not only American but South African Jazz has been undeniably inspiring.
What is it like to be a jazz musician in Cape Town in 2020? And what would it be like if you could have it any way? It’s interesting being surrounded by musicians who respectfully tribute and celebrate the older generation of musicians and their music (Bheki Mseleku, Hotep Galeta, Chris McGreggor), as well as celebrate the moulding and evolution of the “New School”.
If I could have it any way, there’d be more venues for live music performances, where people are able to sit and listen, and artists are respected during a performance – not pegged as background.
How did you end up on keys? Or do you play any other instruments? My father, him being a pianist, started me off with a jazz standard “Blue Bossa”. He’d only ever teach me a new song once I’d gotten the first one right. So when he’d leave on tour, I’d practice till playing piano was the only thing I KNEW how to do. I picked up the violin around the age of 9 (It’s harder than it looks! And more rewarding than it seems).
If you could rewind a few years, what advice would you give yourself as a young jazz musician trying to break onto the scene? Practise! Not only your technical ability, but practise improvisation – the spontaneity and creativity of it all, practice the freedom jazz provides you.
Network. Walk up to the artist, introduce yourself. Even the smallest conversation helps show him/her you’re there and keen to work.
Who else is doing interesting stuff on the local scene that you’d recommend checking out? Mandisi Dyantyis, Refentse Ramathlodi, Sean Sanby, Blake Hellaby, Digital Sangoma, Maya Spector, The Unity Band, Dylan Fine, Brathew Van Schalkwyk, The Pedestrians, Androgenuis and SO MANY MORE! These artists are incredibly inspiring and just genuinely dope at what they do.
Top 5 desert island albums (of any genre)?
Seba Kaapstad – “Tagores”
Solange – “When I get home”
James Morrison – “Undiscovered”
Bheki Mseleku – “Home at last”
Bob Marley and The Wailers – “Uprising”
Where can people follow your musical movements and find more of your music? In the meantime, my music can be found on Soundcloud and YouTube under “Nobuhle Ashanti”. And to follow my musical movements (and the release of our album) on Instagram: @nobuhle_ashanti and Facebook: Nobuhle Ashanti
Nobuhle performs with her band Ashanti Tribe at the March edition of the First Thursdays Sessions, presented by Grolsch. The performance takes place at the Gin Bar, 64A Wale Street, and is free to the public. The performance kicks off at 9pm sharp, followed by a DJ set by Illa N (JHB). Swing by from 6pm for Opihr Oriental Spice Gin tastings, and try one of the Opihr signature cocktails served up by the Gin Bar team.