Ndabo Zulu. Picture. Facebook/The Orbit - Home of Jazz‎Ndabo Zulu Sextet

When Ndabo Zulu began playing the trumpet at a tender age, he knew his love for music would manifest itself into something bigger. 

Today the young musician is making his mark on the local and international music scenes.

Born in the Durban township of Chesterville, Ndabo’s musical journey started when he joined The Field Band Foundation as a trumpet player at the age of 14 in 2002.

The Field Band Foundation also offered him the first international scholarship. He later went to the Durban Music School where he learned how to read and write music.

“I’ve had the opportunity to record with many artists in the music industry as well. I will be starting my two-year Master's degree in August. I’m doing research on how we interpret music, how we perceive music on and off the stage,” said Ndabo.

The 26-year-old musician has been involved in many other music organisations, including the South African National Youth Orchestra and the KZN Youth Wind Band. 

In 2011, he got the opportunity to be part of a project called band crossing borders, a collaboration between the Field Band Foundation and NMF (Norwegian Band Forum), which was sponsored by Fredkorset Norway (FK). 

This course was only for one year, but he decided to audition at the University of Stavanger and was accepted. However, for financial reasons he could only start in 2012.

He luckily got in touch with musician and conductor Richard Cock and obtained sponsorship which has made it possible for him to study in this country for the past three years.

“I then started a band in 2014, the 'ZULU' sextet," he said. Since then he and his fellow band members haven’t looked back. "I'm excited and looking forward to completing my Master's in Norway,” said Ndabo.

While performing at The Orbit in Braamfontein this week, and leading the sextet, he said he incorporated how music is received and perceived by the audience.

“My music is the medium of my research. The music is modern but when people listen, they will hear it’s really from home. I’ve been listening a lot lately to Princess Magogo, and Nduduzo Makhathini. Those have been my influences,” he said.

“I don’t live in South Africa, I come project-based. Jazz in South Africa now sounds like the '60s in America. It’s so direct, and it’s so big. It shows that the black nation can incorporate their work within their communities.”

He said aspiring musicians looking to study abroad should believe it is doable.

“I come from a township, so I know the limitations we put on ourselves. We tend to believe things aren’t possible or not going to happen because of our backgrounds and we need to stop that. It is possible, it is doable.

"People who do get the opportunity to go overseas and spread their wings don’t come back to share with the young ones that it is actually possible to live your dreams. Aspiring artists shouldn’t limit their capabilities in how far they can go. If anyone wants to study abroad it’s important that they believe it's possible.”

Ndabo heads back to Norway next month to complete his Master's in music and is looking forward to returning home and sharing his musical experiences.

@LesegoMakgatho