Zenzi Makeba Lee. Picture: Supplied
Zenzi Makeba Lee. Picture: Supplied

Jazz virtuosos Zenzi Makeba Lee and Amanda Tiffin impress at #NAF18

By Orielle Berry Time of article published Jul 1, 2018

Share this article:

Zenzi Makeba Lee and Amanda Tiffin have talked of performing together for years, and on Saturday they made up a formidable partnership in just one of a diuverse set of musical performances all around festival city Grahamstown.

They both have considerable credentials under their belt. Zenzi is the granddaughter of Miriam Makeba and has made a name for herself as the backing vocalist for her legendary grandmother, Bra Hugh and Dizzy Gillespie and co-wrote songs for Makeba's album Homeland, has several prestigious awards under her belt and on Sunday works as a composer/vocalist. 

Tiffin is not only head of jazz singing but acting head of jazz studies at UCT and works all over the world - her credits include performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; she can regularly be heard as vocalist pianist in Japan and is a arranger and composer.

The two have diverse voices, that both in their own ways are sweet as honey and the warm and responsive audience took to them and the excellent group of musicians that performed alongside them like ducks to water.

Pianist Africa Mkhize accompanied Makeba Lee and Tiffin along with Romy Brauteseth on bass, and Marlon Witbooi and Tlale Makhene on drums.

The audience was taken on a wonderful journey of favourites from both singers and treated to some really spectacular solo playing from the musicians.

Makeba Lee treated the appreciative audience to Ngoma Nkurila - a Shangaan and VhaVenda song composed by  her late mother Bongi Makeba. There were other favourites that demonstrated their versatility both singing solo and together. 

The stage also belonged to the players: Brauteseth made her cello sound like a trombone and, much to the audience's delight, Witbooi could be seen relishing every single moment of his time on his drums, eliciting extraordinary sounds from them. Synergy was also the operative word to describe the way Mkhize and the singers made special music together.

Makeba Lee closed with a rousing Aluta Continua for which a group of school pupils joined them on stage to sing, their voices harmonising in unison to this liberation song. 

In Opera meets Jazz in the Beethoven Room, some extraordinary and harmonious sounds were created by songbird Siki Jo-An in a fusion of Operatic Jazz; beautiful choral music was experienced in Sanctus and in the unusual African Explorations local composers performed some exquisite chamber music, which originated in a project by flutist Liesl Stoltz in 2012 and has blossomed.

In honour of Madiba's 100 the birthday the Odeion String Ensemble performed Reflections on a legend 46664 - a warm tribute with the musical juxtaposition of the combination of the prison number 46664 - of chamber works from a quartets and sextets by different classical composers.

On Sunday The Festival Gala concert was one of the most touted events in which Richard Cock conducts and talented guitarist and composer Guy Buttery, The Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, will perform solo as well as pianist Charl du Plessis.

There will also be a tribute to the late and great Leonard Cohen on Sunday; a  lively Live Jukebox and performing as part of the jazz festival will be virtuosos Andreas Schaerer and Hildegard Lernt Fliegen at the DSG Auditorium. 

This venue has fast become a welcoming place for jazz lovers, not least because of its bar area outside where the heat is on and great and food and drinks sustain music lovers before and after the show.

Get ready to rock Grahamstown!

* For more on the festival go to  www.nationalartsfestival.com

Share this article: