CityLife Arts

Trombonist MrX Zuma has just released a jazz EP 360°

The Daveyton based musician and poet has gone full circle from being a student to being a teacher at Music Academy of Gauteng.

By Edward Tsumele

His is a background steeped in musical heritage as when he grew up in Umlazi, a township in Durban, he was introduced to important cultural figures, such Brenda Fassie and Mbongeni Ngema, for example.

“Mbongeni Ngema, and Brenda Fassie, who at the time was married to Nhlanhla Mambo a fellow resident of the township, used to come to our township. That is when the interest in music started in the 80s, and it later evolved from the love of pop music into embracing kwaito music in the 90s,” says polished jazz trombonist Xolani “MrX” Zuma in an interview with CITYLIFE/ARTS, recently in Maboneng, in one of the popular coffee shops.

I had met the trombonist two weeks earlier at the album launch of Malcolm Jiyane at a venue also in Maboneng. The musician them shoved a CD into my hand,, an EP titled 360°, asking that I listen to it whenever I got time.  And indeed I obliged and listened to it a few days later, and my ears liked what I heard. This EP, which has four songs is in fact a precursor to Zuma’s debut album, he is planning to release soon.

The EP gives an insight into Zuma’s repertoire of mainly jazz tinged with captivating and catchy poetry, and the EP features Mthunzi Mvubu. Already a music video from the EP is causing waves on social media garnering a huge following on YouTube. This Suggests that jazz fans from around the world like what they hear, just like I did the first time I listened to it.

“The interest on social media is despite the fact that the songs have not yet been played on local radio, and I can imagine how those who love contemporary jazz will respond to it in South Africa once it starts being play-listed on South African radio stations?

And indeed 360° is a good sound that should connect easily to those who love jazz and world music. The songs are highly contemplative, a sort of sound that makes the listen connect to the artist in an impact full way.

“This music is about my journey. It is a self reflective personal journey that I would like to share with others. It is about my life and I hope that those who listen to it will be able to travel with me on this reflective journey,” he says.

Born in a township around Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, indeed Zuma’s journey is interesting culturalyl speaking. He says that he used to win competitions for singing cover versions of pop American icons where ever he lived around the country as he grew up. His mother was a domestic worker and therefore he and his brothers lived in different parts of the country with relatives.

For example from Umlazi, they lived also in Ermelo. “In fact it was while living in Emerlo, Mpumalanga, that I made an impression in competitions. But the real impactful trajectory of my musical journey took place while I lived in Daveyton. There I was introduced to Music Academy of Gauteng, founded by the late Bra Johnny Mekoa. It is at the academy that I learned music formally, first learning how to play the piano, as I wanted to be able to produce as well. But later I learned to play the trombone and today the trombone is the instrument of choice for me,” he says.

And indeed that instrument has taken Zuma around the world, particularly in European countries, such as Sweden where he performed as part of a touring orchestra started by Mekoa as well as other countries where he accompanied some of the leading jazz artists from South Africa as part of their band.

Today Zuma’s life has gone full circle, from being a student at Music Academy of Gauteng to being a teacher at the same school and other schools of music. However it is the promoting of the 360° EP that he wants to focus on right now, the Covid-10 situation allowing.

“We were supposed to have promotional gigs unveiling 360° to audiences but the Covid-situation has made the situation a bit complicated. However I am currently focusing on approaching radio stations for play-listing the EP,” Zuma reveals, a married father of one boy.

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