Acid jazz maverick, DJ and producer Nicola Conte will perform in Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria this weekend. Picture: Supplied
Nicola Conte is “in the middle of the street” in Italy when I call him. Understandably, he’s out and about because he’s not going to be on home turf for a while.

The acid jazz maverick, DJ and producer is headed to South Africa where he will perform at three events over the weekend.

He will be at The Chairman in Durban on Friday, before he treats fans to a DJ set at Kaya FM’s Sound Supreme Picnic at the Mushroom Farm Park in Johannesburg on Saturday and the premiere of the Menlyn Platinum Jazz Experience at the Menlyn Central Park in Pretoria on Sunday.

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Interestingly, the artist who rose to prominence as the leader of The Fez Collective, a progressive band in the arts, will not be bringing all the members of his own band to Mzansi to accompany him at these events.

Instead, he will be joined by Nduduzo Makhathini, Zoe Modiga, Thuto Motsemme, Tlale Makhene and Tumi Mogorosi, as well as his frequent collaborators Gianluca Petrella and Logan Richardson.

I ask Conte why he has chosen to play with South African jazz musicians. “That’s for a number of reasons,” he starts.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to bring my own band. In fact two of the guys from my band are coming. The idea of merging with the South African musicians was exciting. That’s mainly because I’m leaning into a process in the new music that is going to come from me.”

“How can I say this?” he pauses to search for the words. “My soul, my spirit is filled with songs that have a relationship with Africa. I don’t know what is the explanation for this but I got more involved with African rhythms, tribal feelings, 1970s’ culture. When the events in South Africa were confirmed, I felt like it was all coming together.

“I’ll also have a chance to record some tracks there, so for me, it would be special to do that with South African musicians. I am very fond of the South African jazz scene. It’s the most important jazz scene in Africa since the late 1960s and I think it still is today. There are a lot of young musicians who are very impressive to listen to.”

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Conte’s debut album Jet Sounds (2000) became a seminal work for the guitarist. Since then he has put out several collaborations and remixes.

I ask him what he had 17 years ago that he wishes he could bring to his current musical endeavours. He doesn’t hesitate to respond.

“That was a time in my life that ended up being the Jet Sounds album,” he says. “Once you achieve a certain sound that is the expression of your feelings at a particular time you can’t do it again. That would mean you’re not moving. 

"You’re staying in the same place and that’s not me. What I’m doing nowadays are the electronic projects with Gianluca Petrella. So I’m interested in this electronic, DJ, club-culture styles and on the other side, I am interested in live bands and the acoustic sound.”

Luckily for South Africans, he will bring both sides this weekend.

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