The enduring Tlale Makhane

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Joe Machingura

Cape Town - South Africa’s SAMA26 nominations are out and one of the biggest stories has been the absence of Master KG and Makhazi from the shortlist.

The most inspiring story, though, is that of the enduring appeal of jazz veteran Tlale Makhene, who has been nominated for Best African Adult Contemporary Album for his work on “S.G 2.0” with Ziyawa Ka Zitha. 

To get an idea of how highly regarded Makhene is, consider that among his fellow nominees in the category are Judith Sephuma and Ntsika Ngxanga.

Makhene started his musical journey in 1993 at Funda Centre in Soweto, after which he worked with groups such as the Soweto Dance Theatre, Free Flight Dance Company and Pact, among others.

“I was called to the drum. My grandmother was a diviner … and I started playing drums then. I was four then at the time. The drum stayed with me through my school and traditional dance years and at church. By the time I was in Form One, I knew I was a musician,” he tells The Southern Times.

Makhene went on to not only be a musician but also a producer and percussion tutor in a career that has to date bagged him a South African Music Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2005 and the 2020 BVSM Award for Best Percussionist.

But he is not done.

He wants to work more with traditional music and dance groups – “and also learn more from them at the same time”, he notes – in addition to building a Pan-African arts academy.

During his time, Makhene has collaborated with artistes from outside South Africa, counting among them Keiko Matsui from Japan and Ziya Wa Kazitha from Eswatini, as well as Dan Selsick, Honest Lihle Mhlanga, Kentridge William and Marcus Miller.

But why jazz in particular, whence came the love for that genre?

“Jazz was played at home and it stuck with me,” he says, adding that the exposure to traditional sounds came in and fused with that.

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