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Lawyer turned jazz sensation on stage

Local
Cape Town - Lawyer-turned-jazz musician Sisonke Xonti is no stranger to the stage. The 28-year-old jazz aficionado has played at some of the country’s most prestigious music events, including last year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Now he’s set to launch his debut jazz album - a 10-track offering of original compositions.

Xonti started playing the recorder before mastering the saxophone aged 14. He now holds a Grade 8 music qualification in classical saxophone from Unisa, which he achieved with distinction.

During his music career, Xonti has shared the stage with some of South Africa’s most acclaimed musicians, including Jimmy Dludlu, Victor Ntoni, Lira, Hugh Masekela and Judith Sephuma.

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Sisonke Xonti plays on his tenor sax outside his mother’s home in Khayelitsha. Picture: Jason Boud

In an interview with Weekend Argus, Xonti said he felt now was the right time to launch his own album.

“I have been playing professionally for over five years now, and I feel it is time South Africa got to experience my original work outside of any band,” he said.

“Iyonde means “to be enjoyed.” It’s also Xonti’s middle name.

His mother, Veliswa Xonti, said the family whad been sceptical when Sisonke said he wanted to pursue a career in music. But they soon came around. “He would always tell us to have a look through the lens of a camera and see the tiny light at the very end, and say he was that light and one day he would shine brighter. I believe this is that day,” she explained.

“By the age of 13, he was inspired by people like the late Ezra Ngcukana and he went out, searched and found him. Ezra then put him in the Cape Town-based jazz band, The Little Giants, led by himself and George Werner,” she said.

Soon after, Xonti was selected to be part of the Schools’ Big Band competition at the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival in Grahamstown.

But it was after meeting legendary musician, Jimmy Dludlu, that Xonti’s career really began to soar. Dludlu took the young muso under his wing, and the pair travelled throughout Africa and performed in China, Mozambique, Angola, Reunion, and Switzerland, among others

Xonti has performed at local and international jazz festivals, including the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, the Grahamstown Jazz Festival, and the Calabar Jazz Festival in Nigeria.

Xonti’s album launch will be held in Khayelitsha at the Look Out Hill, from 2pm tomorrow. Tickets available at the gate for R120.

Weekend Argus

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