Artists 2024 – First Announcement

First Artists Announcement 2024

Matt Bianco (UK)

Matt Bianco is a UK group formed in 1982 by Mark Reilly (vocals), Danny White (keyboards) and the late Kito Poncioni (bass), all originally members of the band Blue Rondo A La Turk. For their first album “Whose Side Are You On ?” they hired unknown polish vocalist Basia Trzetrzelewska. Her vocal arrangements gave the album a jazzy dimension that Reilly and White couldn’t anticipate and hits like “Get Out of Your Lazy Bed” and “Half a Minute” turned Matt Bianco into one of the biggest acts of the 1980s. The band’s name suggests that Matt Bianco is a personal name, but Matt Bianco is a fictitious character they invented from the spy, secret agent world that laid the concept for their music and imagery.

Basia and Danny White left the group after the first album to pursue a solo career. Mark Reilly now without a musical partner, found keyboard player and session musician Mark Fisher and recorded the next (self-titled) Matt Bianco album, which included the big hit “Yeah Yeah”.  In 1988, Matt Bianco hired Gloria Estefan’s husband and producer, Emilio Estefan, and recorded the album “Indigo”, which included the singles “Don’t Blame It On That Girl” and “Good Times”. Another song “Wap Bam Boogie” became European dance single of the year. After another album with Warner Brothers – “Samba In Your Casa” (1991), saw Reilly and Fisher split from their record company, going freelance.

They created a loyal fan base in Japan and the rest of Asia with the albums “Another Time Another Place,” “Gran Via”, “World-Go-Round”, “A/ Collection”, “Rico” and “Echoes” with great success. 

Basia and Danny White joined with Mark Reilly to reform the original Matt Bianco in 2003, after 20 years apart. In 2004, Matt Bianco released the album “Matt’s Mood” on Universal Records. The following year they embarked on a world tour.  In 2009, Mark Reilly and Mark Fisher joined forces again and released the album “HiFi Bossanova” on the German label Edel, their first studio album together for 7 years, and in 2012, released the album entitled “Hideaway”. Looking to expand his creative outlook, Reilly then teamed up with the Dutch band New Cool Collective to make a collaboration album called “The Things You Love” (New Cool Collective – Mark Reilly/Matt Bianco). 

After the loss of Mark Fisher, the band with a new group of musicians released an album in 2017 called “Gravity”. In 2020, this ever evolving, and perennially popular band reunited with New Cool Collective with a lockdown album called “High Anxiety”.  In 2022, the double album, “The Essential Matt Bianco” re-imagined re-loved was released with 30 tracks of all the favourite tracks from the Matt Bianco catalogue, which is now making its way to Cape Town.

Benjamin Jephta presents “Born coloured, not born-free” (SA)

Bassist and Composer, Benjamin Jephta’s “Born coloured, not born-free” album reflects on his experience as a so-called ‘Coloured’ in post-Apartheid, democratic South Africa. He dissected his experience and created music centred around important themes. The themes explored in this deeply personal project includes ‘transformation’, ‘the coloured identity’, ‘the coloured and black relationship’ and ‘the coloured mentality’. His aim is to inspire and create a sense of hope, empowerment and unity in the South African experience, rather than alienating with a radical political approach. The compositions draws musically from traditional South African styles such as the Ghoema/Cape Jazz and Marabi music as well as modern African music idioms such as Gqom (a style of ‘house’ music), kwaito and hip-hop.

Jephta (30) has made a name for himself as one of South Africa’s premier double and electric bass players. A graduate of the jazz programme at the University of Cape Town in 2013, he has performed both nationally and internationally since the age of 14 and has worked with notable South African jazz musicians including Hugh Masekela, and Sibongile Khumalo. With two albums as a bandleader, multiple award nominations and wins, was the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans list recipient, and also received the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz award in 2017.

After graduating from The Berklee Global Jazz Institute in Boston, USA, with a Masters degree he moved to New York City where he performed with Danilo Perez, Terri-lyne Carrington, Jason Palmer and Dianne Reeves among others. Today, he is based in Johannesburg, working as a performer, film/TV composer and lecturing in Jazz Studies and Film Composition at the University of Witwatersrand.

Billy Monama (SA)

Billy Monama is a renowned guitarist, author, researcher, composer, and producer. He is founder and director of the Grazroots Project and Mayibuye iAfrika.

Monama’smusical journey began in 1997. As a guitarist, he has collaborated with artists such as Themba Mkhize, Abdullah Ibrahim, Sibongile Khumalo, Victor Ntoni, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabusa, Mbongeni Ngema, Dorothy Masuka, Abigail Kubeka. His international collaborative performances include Dave Koz and Denise Jannah.

His debut album ‘Rebounce”, was released in 2017 followed by tutorial videos on South African guitar styles in 2020. In the same year, he published a tutorial book entitled: “Introduction to South African Guitar Styles Vol 1 – ‘5 decades of Ukumbva’, (1930s -1980s)”. Monama also adds film scoring to his list of accomplishments.

In 2021, Monama received the Distinguished Lecture certificate from the University of Southern California and Northern Texas, for his contributions to knowledge and teaching at the 2022 International Collegiate Guitar Ensemble Festival.

Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners of Strange (SA)

Bassist Carlo Mombelli’s music has been described by numerous local and international music pundits as hauntingly beautiful, fresh and, according to All About Jazz (New York), he is “something of a sage figure. He remains one of the most restlessly creative forces in South African jazz. In his 40-year career as a bass player and composer, Mombelli has bridged gaps between genres, musicians, and audiences. He is currently a NRF Rated Associate Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Besides his over 100 recorded compositions, his composition commissions include music for a mobile game for the London gaming company ‘The Secret Police’, commissions for Zim Ngqawana’s 50-piece Zimphony Ourchestra, commissions for the ‘Stockholm Saxophone Quartet’, and his piano music for the art film ‘Exquisite Corps’ by Jonah Sack. Mombelli’s project, ‘The Prisoners of Strange’ comprises the powerful voice of Siya Makuzeni, Marcus Wyatt on horns, Justin Badenhorst on drums, & the composer/bassist, Mombelli. Between them, they have toured the world, performed on some of the greatest international festivals, recorded with some of the greatest legends in the South African and international music scene, including Miriam Makeba, Kyle Shepherd, Abdullah Ibrahim, Zim Ngqawana, Lee Konitz, Egberto Gismonti, Wolfgang Muthspiel and many more.

Kokoroko (UK)

Named “ones to watch” by the Guardian in 2019, Kokoroko is an exciting London-based musical group known for their fusion of jazz and Afrobeats. The multi-award-winning group comprises Sheila Maurice-Grey on Trumpet, Anoushka Nanguy on Trombone for live shows, Ayo Salawu on drums, Onome Edgeworth on percussion, Duane Atherley on bass, Tobi Adenaike-Johnson on guitar andYohan Kebede on keys and synths to complete the vibrant ensemble.

Together, they seamlessly blend a melting pot of influences and experiences to usher in a new future, while drawing from the past and present. Whether that’s through the dreamlike synths that
weave around the urgent percussion, distorted electric guitar solos or a horn section so melodic and expressive that it makes you forget to miss lyrics. There’s a dynamic, bustling trademark London energy to the arrangements at times, alongside a sense of space and weightlessness that resists location and categorisation altogether.

Kokoroko’s philosophy for the future, is very simple: “come as you are and share joy”. In channelling the open-ended joy that fuels their collaboration, what comes next for the collective is bound to bring light and offer up a soundtrack for life’s most precious moments.

Kujenga (SA)

Kujenga is a seven-piece Black improvised music outfit based in Cape Town. The band’s name comes from the Swahili language, with the word meaning “to build.” The title symbolises the group’s belief in their calling as creators: to build meaningful experiences and connections with every listener. Community and emancipatory politics are central pillars in Kujenga’s music, as the band sees art as a tool for collective struggles within their home country and the wider world. Kujenga follows on from the rich legacy of Black band music in South Africa, with the ensemble representing the present and future of this historic sound. 

The band started their journey in 2017 and have since performed at several stages across South Africa, leading to them being recognised by many as part of the forerunners in modern SA Jazz. They released their debut album Nationality in 2019 and are set to release their sophomore album ‘In The Wake’ in 2024.

‘In The Wake’ is a project that was written and recorded in response to some of the most challenging years faced by the band. The album is an articulation of personal and systemic experiences which took place during the coronavirus pandemic. More crucially, the project sets its focus on assessing the kind of world which could place us in such predicaments. In The Wake is the band’s interrogation of critical questions concerning our situation; where do we find ourselves, what brought us here, and where do we hope to go?

Mandisi Dyantyis (SA)

Mandisi Dyantyis is a multi-award nominated and winning Afro-Soul-Jazz South African trumpeter, vocalist, and composer who in 2019 released his debut album entitled Somandla. Since then, he has gone on to tour and perform all over the country to sold out shows wherever he goes, along with a highly successful international circuit. His YouTube videos have garnered over 2 million views and in 2021, Mandisi was the only South African artist chosen to perform in South Africa on International Jazz Day, an event screened around the world to millions of jazz fans.

He released his second album, ‘Cwaka’ at the beginning of 2022 which quickly generated more than 4 million online streams. This is unprecedented for any jazz /soul artist in South Africa. Cwaka, also won the 2022 SAMA Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album.

Mandisi has also been part of several campaigns notably, Multichoice Origins campaign which showcased 6 of the hippest South African artists in various genres of dance, film, and music; and the PLATOON [Apple Music] mural on a wall in downtown JHB’s hip-district of Maboneng. He also wrote the music for the multi-award-winning SIYA KOLISI documentary, “RISE”.

He has also travelled with the artist, Nelson Makamo to New York, as well as a month-long stint in Boston, lecturing and curating stories with the students at the music and arts department at Harvard. Mandisi has also toured with sell-out shows in France with his Isango Ensemble Theatre Company, for which he is an associate director and musical director for the past 16 years.

Nduduzo Makhathini Trio featuring Omagugu (SA)

Nduduzo Makhathini, hailing from umGungundlovu in South Africa, is deeply rooted in the symbiotic relationship between music and ritual practices of the Zulu culture. Influenced by both the rich history of his homeland, particularly the reign of Zulu King Dingane, and the emotional resonance of South African jazz legends like Bheki Mseleku and Abdullah Ibrahim, Makhathini’s musical journey is shaped by his upbringing in the church and his exposure to American jazz icons like John Coltrane’s quartet and McCoy Tyner.

As an educator and performer, Makhathini’s contributions to the music scene are extensive. He heads the music department at Fort Hare University, has performed at prestigious festivals worldwide, and collaborated with notable artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Shabaka Hutchings. Makhathini’s own discography, spanning eight albums since 2014, showcases his talent and earned him accolades, including the Best Jazz Album at the South African Music Awards.

With his wife, Omagugu Makhathini, he founded Gundu Entertainment, a label that supports emerging artists and through which he has produced 8 albums of his own since 2014. His Blue Note debut, “Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds,” and subsequent album “In the Spirit of Ntu” have received critical acclaim, cementing Makhathini’s status as a leading figure in contemporary jazz.

Photo credit: Arthur Dlamini

Radio Sechaba (SA)

Already a multi award-winning and established artist, with a growing global reputation, jazz pianist
Bokani Dyer’s newest record provides an intimate view into South Africa’s multifaceted people – and an opportunity for global connection through music.

‘Radio Sechaba’, released in 2023 via Brownswood Recordings, was inspired by his exploration of nationhood and identity in South Africa. Born in Botswana and raised in South Africa, Dyer’s upbringing deeply influenced his perspective on these issues. While pursuing his Master of Music degree, he delved into whether young South African jazz musicians address social issues through composition, which coincided with his conceptualisation of Radio Sechaba. The project marks a departure from his previous instrumental work, incorporating vocals to convey his message more directly.

Radio Sechaba is interspersed with short musical interludes – like “Amogelang” and “Spirit People” – that serve as sonic signposts to our collective past, present and future. The album sounds a hopeful note with “You are Home”, a gorgeous, layered piece that recalls West African blues in its eloquent call to all of us: “Know your truth/Let it guide you/From the unknown/It will lead you home”.

Throughout his career, Dyer has performed at prestigious events such as the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, and the London Jazz Festival. With Radio Sechaba, he aims to share his reflections on nationhood and identity with a global audience, marking a significant milestone in his artistic journey.

The Yussef Dayes Experience (UK)

Yussef Dayes, a South London-raised producer, composer, and drummer, is renowned for his electrifying performances and technical prowess behind the drums, whose intensity and emotion leaves audiences in no doubt as to the role of rhythm in channelling spiritual energy.

Growing up in a musically experimental household, Dayes developed an ear for diverse musical styles, drawing inspiration from African rhythms, grime, and jungle music. His journey to prominence included collaborations with his brothers in the Afrocentric quartet United Vibrations and the acclaimed duo Yussef Kamaal, whose album “Black Focus” became a defining work in contemporary music.

Launching his own imprint, Cashmere Thoughts Recordings, Dayes embarked on a string of solo releases and collaborations, notably with Tom Misch on “What Kinda Music,” which achieved mainstream success and critical acclaim. His collaborations extend beyond music, having worked with fashion icon Virgil Abloh and producing for artists like Kali Uchis and Kehlani.

In 2022, Dayes released a joint project with Soulection titled “Live At Joshua Tree” and is now poised to release his debut solo studio album in partnership with Warner Music / Brownswood Recordings and Cashmere Thoughts Recordings. His trajectory signals a boundary-pushing approach to instrumentalist artistry, transcending traditional notions of jazz and reaching new global audiences.

Zoë Modiga (SA)

Award-winning songstress, Zoë Modiga is a versatile and dynamic artist hailing from KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, who embodies the essence of contemporary and future South African music. She creates a distinct sound to communicate a modern, evolving African story without losing its essence. With a foundation in classical and jazz training, she crafts a unique sound that explores themes of identity, storytelling, and the human experience while maintaining the core of African culture. Modiga, an independent artist under her label Yelloëwax, has received numerous accolades, including awards for her albums “Yellow: The Novel” and “Inganekwane,” and recognition for her engineering and album covers.

Her impact extends beyond music, with appearances on prestigious publications like Songlines UK and Botaki Youth Magazine, as well as a role in the Netflix series “Savage Beauty.” Modiga’s captivating performances have graced stages at renowned festivals globally, including the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

Notably, she engages in pan-African activism, collaborating with various stakeholders and organizations to promote peace through initiatives like the Silencing the Guns campaign. Modiga’s collaborations with esteemed musicians and her commitment to challenging societal norms establish her as a compelling and authentic artist, creating an enduring legacy in music, fashion, and storytelling.