LOOK: Jazz maestro Nduduzo Makhathini graduates with a PhD in music

Published Mar 29, 2023


Acclaimed South African pianist, composer and producer Nduduzo Makhathini has added a feather to his cap as he recently obtained his PhD in Music from Stellenbosch University (SU).

In a series of photographs shared on his social media platforms on Tuesday, the Umgungundlovu-born star broke the news of his academic achievement.

He wrote: “Yesterday I graduated with a PhD in music from Stellenbosch University.”

In a SU press statement shared with IOL Entertainment, he went on to express his gratitude to his musician wife, Oma­gugu Makhathini, for her unwavering support over the years.

“I’m blessed to have such a supportive partner. She is an incredible artist herself but has been selflessly supporting my journey for many years. She makes everything possible and I love her deeply.

“And when I get back home, I’ll celebrate with my kids. But the best way to celebrate is to write more and do more research. I’m inspired to move forward with the inquiry and explore the questions beyond the scope of a PhD dissertation.”

According to the statement, Makhathini was a student at the Africa Open Institute for Music, Research and Innovation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

His doctoral, “Breaking into Sound: Dis/Locating Ntu Cosmology and Improvisation in South African Jazz”, is deeply rooted in Zulu cosmology.

“In my research, I propose the notion of writing as a ritual. In this context, writing considers the spiritual paradigm as an active site for revelations and prophecies, so I want to also thank the dimension that I regard in my work as an ‘elsewhere’,” Makhathini said.

He revealed that he managed to write his PhD while travelling “between sound checks and spending time with really incredible thinkers and artists” globally.

Drawing on the literature on African cosmologies and ritual, the work of Philip Tabane, Busi Mhlongo, Bheki Mseleku and Zim Ngqawana as case studies of musicians in whose work spirituality is central, as well as his own artistic practice as improviser and healer, Makhathini’s research developed a framework for such an understanding, .

“I am deeply inspired by the healing and motivational qualities of the Zulu or African warrior code. My style of music can be described as a fusion of spiritual jazz and modern stylings with my Zulu heritage.”

Makhathini has released eight albums of his own since 2014, when he founded the label Gundu Entertainment in partnership with his wife and vocalist Omagugu Makhathini.

The award-winning musician regularly tours internationally and is the first South African jazz artist to be signed to the prestigious Blue Note Jazz record label.

He has collaborated with many renowned artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Shabaka Hutchings, Nasheet Waits, Somi and Black Coffee.

According to his biography, the church played a big role in Makhathini’s musical understanding as he hopped from church to church in his younger days in search of only music.

He credits South African legends Bheki Mseleku, Moses Molelekwa and Abdullah Ibrahim as his musical influences.

His latest album, “In the Spirit of Ntu”, recently scooped the Jazz Album of the Year award in Germany.