When I meet the award-winning Bokani Dyer it’s at a coffee shop Outie in Newtown that I have come to absolutely love. He has no pomp or pretences about him. I arrive a few minutes before our interview is to begin, Dyer is already seated and radiating peace like you won’t believe. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of having released a solid musical project less than two months ago
We jump right into the thick of things and I express to him that while listening to his latest and fourth offering recorded with his band The Bokani Dyer Trio, Neo Native, I felt like I only caught the third part of the trilogy.
He agrees. “It depends. Maybe this was the point for you to enter, which will give you a different understanding to someone who’s been with the journey. I think that’s also important, because it means you have a different kind of insight to this body of work, which was quite different for me, but it means you will have an interesting view as well,” he said.
While stylistically Neo Native has remained true to the tag of jazz, it has exposed us to a Dyer that’s even more willing to play around with sounds and ideas. It’s finely crafted music, centred obviously around Dyer’s piano.
The compositions merge together the drums of Sphelelo Mazibuko and Romy Brauteseth’s bass, to provide the listener with a unique yet strongly African listening experience.
Dyer describes his journey in creating his last two albums, Emancipate the Story and World Music as an ongoing journey of self-discovery, an attempt to locate himself in his music, and that of the world around him.
“I realise that a lot of my work is dealing with issues of identity. I think it’s a topical thing in South Africa, and especially for someone like me, for whom it hasn’t been an easy thing place, because of my diverse heritage,” he said.
This heritage has played an instrumental role in terms of how he approaches his compositions, what melodies and sounds attract him, and what themes keep running through his music. With this album, Dyer said he felt as though he’s firmly grasped this process.
“The process depends on which side you look at it from. The more elaborate process is the looking back on the creation and analysing and saying okay, but what does this sound like? Where does it come from? Where can I place this? As an artist, what is most important to me, is to approach things more instinctively and let them just come through you. Because it has a more natural feel to it. It should be something closer to where your mind doesn’t play a part in it,” he explained.
This is actually the best way to describe the 14-track album that’s Neo Native. It’s honest and genuine, doesn’t adopt pretences. Each song seems to tell its own story and lead the listener to specific destinations.
Fola, for instance, is one of the songs on the album that made me want to put my hurts out in the sun to dry out, and I would finally be able to leave them behind, where a song like Oumou, is a tribute to a musician Dyer personally respects, Oumou Sangaré, which features vocals by moroccan Asmâa Hamzaoui. Asmâa’s vocals create a subtly powerful yet spellbinding song, and is the perfect way to end the album.
Some songs, like the African Piano Suits and Kgalagadi, are continuations of a thread that can be originally traced back from his previous works. Creating a continued picture.
On what lessons this album taught him, and how he feels about the final product Dyer said:
“I’m happy with it. This is my fourth album in, and I am getting to grips with the process. I’m feeling okay with letting things go if I’m not 100% happy. Because the thing is about this type of music, it’s more about the overall spirit of the music, there’s no editing. It’s not a studio album, you press record and that’s a complete take. There’s no added anything. For me, that’s more organic, and natural, an important thing that acoustic music needs to have.”
Neo Native is currently available at all major record stores and digital platformss. Find Bokani on @bokanidyer on Instagram and @BokaniDyer or visit:www.bokanidyer.com