In the music: people’s intuitive travels and the paths of rhythm

Inside the sleeve of Nduduzo Makhathini’s newest offering,after the prayer, these words are stated:

“Inner Dimensions – Seeks to go deep within the the inner realms of our souls and find those melodies that will bring about harmony, healing and hope for all people. It is a journey to our innermost being that connects us to God. We believe that when we reach this part of our inner selves, it is easier to reach everywhere else…”

I am listening to Inner Dimensions, an exceptionally beautiful album by Nduduzo Makhathini.

Last night as I arrived at the Jazzy Rainbow, a jazz venue in the Durban suburb of Morningside, I was pleasantly surprised to find Makhathini and his ace drummer, Ayanda Sikade standing outside.

After exchanging hugs, greetings and introductions, we immediately got into the subjects of Spirituality, the Gospels, Afrikan Cosmology and the historical development of jazz from the Negro-Spirituals to the Blues and the present day expressions of izingoma/songs. Our conversation was brief but spanned many more subjects, and by the time Salim Washington joined us at the parking lot, we ended up talking about Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchins and Nduduzo and Salim also excitedly glowed when it came to the subject of Randy Weston, whom I have been reading about but have not yet listened to. But just from reading the August 2016 issue of Downbeat Magazine, which bears the image of a purple Afrikan suited elder holding a rod with an image of an Ankh and other Afrikan images,with the words ‘Randy Weston enters DB Hall of Fame’, I know I already love this troubadour.

The story goes that, “In one single work, Weston manages to pay tribute to the ancient tombs of Siki Bilal in Aswan, the Sufi tradition, the holy city of Touba in Senegal, China’s great Shang dynasty, African folk music, the timeless history of the blues, and the unity of humankind.” Weston dialogues with each participant in notes and tones, and emcees from the piano bench, revealing exhaustive knowledge of how the traditions intersect.

Just from reading about Weston, and hearing so much about him from the great musicians in my presence,  couldn’t wait to also read one of the books that influenced his album, The African Nubian Suite. The book by Wayne B. Chandler is interestingly titled “Ancient Future: The Teachings and Prophetic Wisdom of the Seven Hermetic Laws of Ancient Egypt“. From that title alone, I know that we are vibrating on the same higher frequency.

I had actually come to see Professor Salim Washington’s performance with his Sankofa ensemble. Even though I’d read that Salim would be playing with Nduduzo on the previous gig at the Centre for Jazz, I had not anticipated that Makhathini would be part of that night’ s line up. The Sankofa Ensemble turned out to be one of the best sonar experiences I have ever had. With Salim Washington leading the band through compositions such as Oshun, dedicated to the Water Bearing Orisha from the Yoruba Spiritual tradition followed by a melancholy and gut-wrenching tribute to the Souls who perished by fire during the recent Afrophobic attacks, the black on black violence that transpired not long ago in our city Durban.

The song was called Umlilo ( Fire) and featured some evocative singing, wailing and conversations from a very agile young vocal quartet which is part of the Sankofa Ensemble. With permission from my brothers and elders I wish to share the music here in the near future in addition to writing more extensively about it.

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