Jazz pianist Bokani Dyer, 24, comes from a strong musical family and as the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, he is building on his musical heritage with a unique flair.
"The award is a blessing. Being recognised as someone doing something worthwhile is encouraging," said Dyer. "It will give me momentum at this early stage of my career by creating a platform for my music to be heard."
Dyer graduated from the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town, with a bachelor of music (Honours) first class in 2008. While studying in 2006, he was chosen by pianist Andre Peterson for a youth band that took part in a summer school in Sogne, Norway.
He was also part of the Standard Band National Youth Jazz band in Grahamstown, which played at the international jazz festivals in Joburg and Cape Town and toured Sweden.
He played for the University of Cape Town Big Band and also at the Arts Alive concert with Steve Dyer, Dorothy Masuku, Thandiswa Mazwai and Siya Makhuzeni.
"I've always had a love for music, but developed a liking for jazz from the age of 16. I was introduced to jazz by my father, Steve. It is a beautiful art form which allows for deep exploration through spontaneous creativity," said Dyer.
In 2007 he became a member of the Shannon Mowday band and performed at all the major jazz festivals in South Africa. He also joined leading South African Afro-jazz guitarist Jimmy Dludlu's band in gigs on the South African festival circuit countrywide and abroad.
He travelled to Sweden in 2007 with his own trio to perform at the Swedish Jazz Celebration in Lulea, and also performed at Fasching, the iconic jazz club in Stockholm. In 2007 he formed Plan Be, an original groove music band with talented vocalist Sakhile Moleshe, and was a runner-up in the Fine Music Radio travel awards competition.
After graduating in 2008, Dyer's trio became a regular fixture at the Green Dolphin restaurant in Cape Town. They were also a backing band for high-profile jazz artists Jonas Gwangwa and Judith Sephuma. Dyer then joined the Moreira Project, led by Mozambican saxophonist Moreira Chonguiça, for gigs in Namibia, Mozambique and Cape Town.
Last year, Dyer performed with Sephuma at the annual Jazzathon in Cape Town and travelled with Dludlu to Davos, Switzerland, to play at the World Economic Forum. He also toured to Zanzibar with Chonguiça to play at the Sauti za Busara music festival.
At the Cape Town International Festival, he performed with Rus Nerwich and the Collective Imagination. He also performed with the Moreira project at the Mozambique Jazz Festival in April. Dyer was runner-up in the Samro jazz piano competition.
A highlight was playing for the first time in Botswana, his country of birth,with his dad, headlined by Oliver Mtukudzi. This year he again travelled to Davos, Switzerland, with Dludlu for the World Economic Forum, and performed at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival with the Bokani Dyer Trio.
Dyer lists Bheki Mseleku, Moses Molelekwa, Andile Yenana, Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi locally and Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Bobo Stenson internationally as some of his jazz heroes.
"The energy behind the music inspires me. It is the character and feeling behind the sound that really matters."