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Tefo “Talking Drum” Mahola is a young up and coming multi-talented drummer, pianist, arranger, composer and poet in the world of music hailing from Gugulethu, Cape Town.

His ear for music, love for playing new ideas and constant hunger for pushing to newer levels brings about a truly fresh and cooking sound. His music career has barely started, having already done tours and festivals like Rocking the Daisies, Cape Town Jazz Festival, Oslo Jazz Festival and Muizenberg Jazz Festival to name a few, playing with many musical greats.

Tefo was recently chosen in a program by the EU called MAISHA, where 6 Africans and 6 Europeans were chosen in an intense 2 week collaboration between cultures and indigenous instruments with the end goal of putting together an album and performing live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2019. He has recently toured in Hungary with Fatime and her Kolibri in July, visiting all the cities in and around the country.

Although he plays in many styles and genres, his most enjoyed genre to play is jazz. His compositional work depicts that of jazz with all influences of music incorporated within. Tefo Mahola performs original music accompanied by poetry and stories.

We asked Tefo a few questions in the lead up to his performance at the First Thursdays Sessions.

Where did your love for playing music begin? And how did you end up on the drums? It all started in primary school when I started acting and doing dance, I later changed schools to one that focussed on music, where I discovered a piano. In high school, I auditioned for the piano and was asked if there was another instrument I’d love to try out, and little 13 year old me saw the drum set and it was love at first sight.

You’ve played at the First Thursdays Sessions before, with Keegan Steenkamp back in June. It’s always great to see jazz musicians popping up in different bands and projects. Who else do you play with regularly or what other groups or projects are you a part of? I play with bands such as MSMF, a fresh upcoming jazz quartet with my good friends, also with Thembelihle Dunjana, Malek and the THUNDERTONES to name a few.

The Talking Drum Clan is something a bit different – mixing jazz and poetry. How did the project come about? It was actually a sound I was looking for, and through life I’ve been grateful to come across and play with musicians who’ve helped me get to this point. I’ve also had a strong influence in my family with many poets, visual artists and musicians of all styles.

We hear you have some new music coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit more about that? Yes, I have an album that I am currently busy writing before hitting the studio with my 7 piece band. It’s all really compositions of mine that I’ve written this year, and it’s been a long time coming I guess since I’ve been writing and have tons of songs. I feel that the tunes I’ve already written will rather be released in forthcoming albums and rather have a beacon of where my life is this year, which is why I’ll be featuring new compositions.

What is your general experience of being a jazz musician in South Africa in 2019? It’s quite a lot. It’s a bumpy and happy sad journey filled with beautiful faces and experiences, and I’m grateful for the fact that I’m in this industry. This year has and is still promising a lot for Jazz and I’m excited to be a musician at this time.

What advice would you give to young jazz-influenced musicians looking to break into the local and international jazz scene? Believe. Be grateful. Be positive.

Who’s doing interesting stuff on the local scene that you’d recommend checking out? Unity band is doing great, and lumanyano himself being a drummer and friend of mine is really inspiring me to get out and record, as he’s recently released his new album. Check him out!

Top 5 desert island albums (of any genre)?
Kind of blue – miles Davis
Brian Blade – body and shadow
Mama’s gun – Erykah Badu
John Coltrane – my favorite things
Christian Scott – yesterday you said tomorrow

The Talking Drum Clan will be taking the stage at the fourth edition of the First Thursdays Sessions on Thursday 5 September 2019. The performance starts at 9pm followed with a DJ set by ROASTIN’ RECORDS from 10pm. Upstairs at the Gin Bar, 64a Wale Street. The First Thursdays Sessions are presented by Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky and produced by Thursdays Projects.

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