Nduduzo Makhathini on spirituality, technology and making music
Elastic, meditative, reflective and healing sounds deeply rooted in African cultural contexts. That’s how Nduduzo Makhathini describes his music. He forgot to add- moving, spiritual and joyous.
His music elicits a joy in me that few others are able to. Such is the excellence with his music that one is forced to sometimes listen in awe at what he is able to do.
"Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds" is the latest work from Makhathini, his first album under the home of jazz pioneers, the storied Blue Note Records. He now shares a home with Herbie Bancock, Miles Davis, Gregory Porter, Norah Jones and more of the world’s best jazz musicians.
In a recent YouTube concert, where he played music from his latest album, the pianist took us into his confidence, showing gratitude to all those who have played a role in bringing about his musical talent. And also his appreciation for the love that his fans have shown to him over the years.
This is his ninth studio album.
I’ve always wondered when you decide to release music. Is it when you feel it’s necessary or when the record label comes calling?
It’s when an important message is looking for an outlet, a way to reach people’s hearts through their ears. That is the right time, a record label has to respond and be that bridge that creates way for the message.
You are very spiritual, so I gather that has a major impact on your creativity. Is there a method you use to balance both the spirit and also how people will receive your music?
In essence, all beings have a side that is spiritual, so the method is real to be in spirit yourself and the listeners will receive you in a similar fashion.
For each album or even song you work on, is it ever the same or is it a different process every time?
I guess it’s all different because music reaches from different sources each time, but similar in a sense that it all tries to communicate a message from another world.
With "Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds", being your first under a new label- was there pressure to impress or did you just let the creative process direct you into what you felt was needed to be said by the music?
The album was made before the deal was secured, so they liked the album as it is. That’s the power of sound I guess.
What excites you about Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds?
The idea of rituals in the context of ubungoma and technology, is truly fascinating to implement.
Are you happy with where we are as a nation when it comes to the music we are releasing?
That’s a broad question that will need us to look at many things to respond, but generally the music that is coming out of South Africa has a brightness to it that can be enjoyable. I do think a deeper deliberateness in what is channeled can definitely take it to the next level.
Being signed to Blue Note is a major deal. Did it change the way you will be approaching your career as a musician?
I really appreciate this gesture from Blue Note Records, I think it’s amplified my voice more than altering it. I still walk the same journey.
What do you hope we take away from "Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds"?
I hope it becomes a bridge for all of us to connect with our godliness.