Coming out of Cape Town, the Tune Recreation Committee (TRC) is the latest and possibly most exciting addition to the Johannesburg Jazz scene - and a welcome one to the city’s current soundscape.
It’s a name that subtly takes the mickey out the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, one of the most important institutions of late-20th century South Africa. This TRC, however, will certainly not leave listeners with a bad taste in their mouths.
While spreading their musical network to the rest of the country, the TRC has also been met by a nomination for their debut album, Voices of our Vision, for the Best Jazz Album at the 24th annual South African Music Awards.
While it’s always great to hear Mlangeni espouse wisdom about jazz, on this occasion he shared a little bit more about the Future is Now Tour that the band is wrapping up in the SADC countries. The tour, he said, is in the business of actively attempting to traverse the divides that are physically put up by border posts and also to allow people to interact in meaningful ways with jazz music.
Chatting to IOL ahead of their performance at the Soweto Theatre, Mlangeni said the the locations where the workshops were taking place at the UJ Soweto Campus, and those for the show were important, as they took the performance to the people.
“The significance of the location is that my family is from Jabulani and my family was located there, but I also have a strong sense of identifying with the ethos of the Soweto Theatre, of also playing for the community, by being there and coming in with what we want to offer the community,” he explained.
The band had been based in Cape Town for the past nine or so years, where they have established a healthy network, where their art is not just available for consumption by people with a lot more money left over, but where it’s of actual service to the communities.
Their next intention is to establish such a network in Johannesburg, but also in the communities of Swaziland, Mozambique and various parts of South Africa that the tour has touched. This also becomes a network for the creative exchange of the artists involved. What they produce, Mlangeni explains, is social music that can be consumed by literally anyone with an interest in broadening their ear.
Speaking about a groundswell of younger black people gravitating to jazz as a genre of choice and expression, Mlangeni said its appeal lies in the fact that it is social music.
“That’s what language is. If music were a metaphor for language, that’s what it would achieve. It’s like sports as well. Cricket was invented in England, but because of globalisation, and interactions, it has moved.
“In South Africa, jazz has a particular place in our history, not because it was struggle music, but because it represented an aspiration for us as black people and the names that were associated with jazz, they were regal. Like Duke, Satchmo, etc, and it had more to do about the excellence and the pride, and the manner in which black Americans carried themselves amidst all that was happening around them.
But little did we know that, in America, the aspirations were different, they were to be included in a society that would acknowledge this great contribution by its people. So, more often with this music, it’s been recreated in many different ways and how we hear it today is because of that suffering - and it’s a communal music,” Mlangeni said.
He paints a picture of how this is what drives the band to do what they do.
“This is what the Tune Recreation Committee still speaks to. It speaks to a truth that we still want to commit to as people. We are the proverbial TRC, the exorcists of our own reality, our own now. That’s why we present it as the future is now. Which is why, during Africa Month, we’ll also be going to Swaziland, Mozambique and Joburg,” he said.
“The Future is Now is us taking hold of what is ours, being the captains of our own destinies, creating new networks for collaboration (and) it’s also to meet new artists, but also to see what’s happening on the ground. We are also working with institutions, presenting a decolonial curriculum of what we’ve experienced but also what we’d like to see taught,” he said.
Speaking on their Sama nomination, Mlangeni said while they were pleased with it, they work for the music.
“There are so many great musicians out there who are legends, who have shaped what jazz music is and carry a sea of knowledge, but have never been nominated for a Sama. That said, it’s also great to be acknowledged; it says that someone is listening. With the nomination, it doesn’t guarantee success. What guarantees success is a clear vision and focus on what you want to do. We’re excited for it, but the work continues,” he said.
For people looking to experience the band from Thursday this week, Mlangeni said people should come to the shows to experience a life-changing event.
* The 24th annual South African Music Awards will take place on June 2 and will be broadcast live from Sun City, North West on SABC1 at 8pm.
* The TRC plays at the Soweto Theatre with their Future is Now Tour tomorrow and Friday, and will also be part of the line-up of the UJ Arts and Culture Weekend of Jazz on Saturday.