Wits lecturers co-launch jazz albums 

Powerful African rhythms and poignant reflections on post-apartheid complexities. 

Bokani Dyer performing one of Vuma Levin’s movements titled, Chaphela. Photo by: Ayanda Mgwenya

Renowned jazz artists, Vuma Levin and Benjamin Jephta, took to the Chris Seabrooke Music Hall stage, on July 29, 2023, for a combined album launch called The Narratives. 

Levin is a guitarist, recipient of the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz award and holds a master’s degree from the Amsterdam Conservatorium in Music. 

Jephta is a bassist and composer and has performed with prominent international artists like Dianne Reeves and Terri-lyne Carrington.

Levin is a jazz studies lecturer while Jephta lectures in both jazz and film music. 

Renowned jazz maestros, such as Sisionke Xonti (saxophonist), Bokani Dyer (pianist), Tlale Makhene (percussionist), and Jonno Sweetman (drummer), performed alongside the two during the launch.

The evening was divided into two sets. Levin kicked off the night with tracks from his fifth album, The Past is Unpredictable, Only the Future is Certain, performing 2/3 parts of the album: The first one titled The Past is Unpredictable with movements Gijima and Chaphela and the second one titled Prayers Made From Grass with Homily and Rites

Led by Tlale’s poetic chants and Xonti’s melodious sounds, an African rhythmic experience was created. The inclusion of African instruments like the udu ceramic drum, cymbals, chimes, ankle rattles, and triangles added a distinct African essence. 

Levin said, “The album blends indigenous and western musical instruments, making it a unique and special representation of Pan Africanism in music.” 

Following a short intermission, the spotlight shifted to Jephta’s set, performing his Born Coloured, not Born-Free album, Jephta’s compositions delve into the complexities of race in South Africa. The music encapsulated his personal experiences as a coloured male in post-Apartheid South Africa.  

Jephta’s set featured soulful tracks like An Incomplete Transition and Gadija (part 1), a heartfelt tribute to his grandmother. The bass-driven Ben-Dhlamini Stomp earned him a standing ovation. Closing the show, Jephta’s last two movements, Acceptance/metamorphosis and Resurgence, delighted the crowd with its infectious rhythm and captivating melody, leaving them singing and bobbing along. 

Speaking about the two musicians, Wits Music lecturer, Dr Peter Cartwright said, “They are both new in the permanent staff… so it’s a way to welcome them, you know, with their first public concert.” 

Elliot Rogers, third year music student said, “Benjamin Jephta is my lecturer for ensemble, and I do guitar [classes] with Vuma Levin; and seeing this concert where their music is coming together is a beautiful sight, looking at it from a [scholastic] lens.” 

The Narratives concert got the audience singing and clapping throughout, the multiple standing ovations received on the night spoke to the pair’s expansive talents.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Benjamin Jephta performing his bass-driven composition, Ben-Dhlamini Stomp, at the Chris Seabrooke Music Hall. Photo by: Ayanda Mgwenya

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Cool Kid: Zekhu Kheswa

Different environments can affect how one understands and views the world. 

Zekhu Khwesa is a Bachelor of Music student at Wits University, a budding musician majoring in jazz vocals, and goes by the stage name “Lord Zekhu. The Durban born musician said music has been a part of his liver ever since he can remember. “At the age of 11, I would practice at the staff kitchen at my school, that is when one of my teachers noticed me and gave me proper lessons,” he recalls.  

Zekhu creates alternative, Afro-Pop, Trap and RnB music. He manipulates and fuses sounds from different genres that articulate and present the audience with something unique to listen to. “Music needs to introduce different taste, this helps broaden and open the listener’s minds to new, informative and insightful things,” Kheswa said.  

The photograph that inspired Zekhu to write the JungleFever collection Photo: Sedibana Mpho

The love of music runs in the Kheswa family, Zekhu’s mother is an Opera singer and his uncle is a music conductor for orchestras, and lectureat UKZN. At the age of 10, Zekhu would go to UKZN to practice playing the piano. He tells Wits Vuvuzela that as a child he never realised that he was following his mother and uncle’s footsteps, but it is all making sense now.  

Zekhu released his first collection JungleFever on 3 May, 2021. The collection consists of 3 solo singles, the singer explained the work behind JungleFever was inspired by photography shot by his friend, Sedibana Mpho. “I mostly create my work from analysing and interpreting art,” he said.    

Zekhu initially pursued modelling when he first got to Braamfontein in 2014. But he said the experience came with a lot of stress and anxiety, and eventually lead to Zekhu slipping into depression, that’s when he decided to cut ties with the industry altogether. It was one of the biggest challenges Zekhu has faced, “I inspire myself by looking back at what I have done and look what I am going to do next,” he said.

Growing up in a musicafamilyZekhu is inspired by greats such as Michael Jackson and Kanye West, who influenced his fashion and dance style.  “At 9 years old, I would pick outfits for my mother to wear when she would attend meetings at school,” he adds. 

Zekhu had also suffered from the impact that the covid-19 pandemic brought in people’s daily lives. He used to have paid gigs which became scarce, he said the lockdown period was tough, he saw it as an opportunity for learning and regrouping., “Time alone for an artist is the foundation of creativity,” Zekhu said.  

Zekhu is currently working on another project “Cozy Collection” which is also inspired by the photographs he has taken before. 

 

FEATURED IMAGE: Image of Zekhu Kheswa Photo: Alfonso Nqunjana

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