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On Andile Yenana's "Who's Got the Map?"



Interview by Dirk Binsau of Jazz-not-Jazz


Andile Yenana’s album Who’s Got The Map? is already one of my favourite jazz albums this year. If you want to discover South Africa’s jazz music of today, I guess there couldn’t be a better start. To know more about Andile and his music, just continue reading this interview.


Q: Who’s Got The Map? is your second album as a solo artist. Please tell me in which way it’s different from We Used To Dance and the music you’ve recorded with the Voice project and where do you see your progress as songwriter/pianist?


Andile Yenana: This is my last Quintet recording, as I will be concentrating on trio material for my 3rd release. ‘Who’s Got The Map’ in comparison with ‘We Used To Dance’ is gratifying in the sense that I have written more material than I did with ‘We Used To Dance’ and with Voice projects.


Q: Please tell me how you’ve met the musicians involved on Who’s Got The Map and tell me more about the musical vision you share.


Andile Yenana: Sydney Mnisi has worked with me on my first album and he is a member of Voice. Sydney Mavundla was my collegue at varsity. We work on each others compositions when ever we have time and I am glad that Sydney Mnisi has once again contributed a tune on this album.


Q: You were living in South Africa, a country still notorious for the apartheid system. Unfortunately racism seems to be one prejudice that's very hard to overcome for many people. It may work to abolish racism in people's head if a country is well-off and the wealth is shared by a large part of the population.


But as soon as the economy doesn't prosper very well you will be confronted with more and more racist opinions. What I'd like to know how much are you still confronted with racism in South Africa these days? And what do you think one can do to get rid of racism?

Andile Yenana: Fortunately with us, our music is more readily accepted by white audiences because the venues we play and their background background (White) has enabled them to embrace our music as more progressive, devoid of the township stereotypical Jazz that is associated with black musicians. The problem is that now our communities are still racially divided therefore there is a serious lack of cultural cohesion that should be about transformation and national identity.


Andile Yenana

Q: You've played in the USA, the UK, Sweden and France amongst other countries. In which way do you think the jazz scene in the USA and Europe is different from the one in South Africa?

Andile Yenana: Jazz in the
USA is a very serious cultural phenomeno. Their history is so connected to Europe because of her wide musical palate has played host to a lot American musicians especially as far back as the 30's. Europe created professional atmosphere for Jazz away from the racial tension in the U.S and Europe has gain more directly from that experience.


The festivals and the music institutions are more organised in Europe than in South Africa. Again the nature of communities we have in SA post apartheid is a problem. The local municipalities do not have program in place for Jazz and music development. Promoters (especially black) are there to exploit, confuse the cultural ministry, eventually make lots of money for themselves.

Q: Damon Forbes, the president of your label Sheer Sounds said that "
Europe and the US are still in the Makeba/ Masekela/ Mahlatini/ Johnny Clegg and Abdullah Ibrahim frame of mind. There is very little interest in the new breed of musicians, something the exiles were able to overcome." What do you think why is there so little exposure of South African jazz artists in Europe and the USA?

Andile Yenana: I think South African embassies in the world should be at the fore front of the change but they don't. They still keep connections with those musicians you've mentioned to potray South African identity in music. Those musicians with all the respect need to pass the torch to others coming up.

Q: In the liner notes to Who's Got The Map? you've raised some interesting questions. Is there a relationship between jazz and politics, activism, sociology, or pedogogy? Is there? And if so, which relationship?

Andile Yenana: Yes very much, South African Jazz needs to reflect the kind of society we have now. It must be seen as a uniting force for our people against racism and xenophobia. Jazz institutions should also open up to the fact that Jazz is not just repetoir that one plays at the hotels, when people dinning but a tool that we can use to conscientise our people about issues of African solidarity and Global human solidarity as well.

Q: You've also asked if geography influences jazz and the way critics respond. I think the largest influence is still one's musical upbringing and how much one is interested in music and willing to discover the history of for example jazz or soul music on one's own. The geography, in this case the traditional music (if there's still such a thing as traditional/native music in the 21st century when for most people music is just a mouse click away and the old Cole Porter saying of Anything Goes seems to be more prevailing than ever) of one's homeland, may have an influence on both the musician and the critic/listener.


If I take me as an example though I'm neither interested in German classical music nor in what we call Volksmusik here and I often have the feeling that my taste in music is a little bit left field here in Germany. So, I really think it depends on the individual and not on the geography. What do you think? Is there an influence of the geography on jazz and the way a listener/critic judges music?

Andile Yenana: Well the fact that in
South Africa one gets exposed to Jazz through records, CD's, then you get a feeling that you are importing a specific culture to your home, thus negating what could be your own. For instance in South Africa Jazz is played on Sundays, during the week its all forms of R&B, Pop music you hear. Because of that then Jazz becomes the music of the elderly and yet we have young musicians at institutions studying Jazz. Where? are these musicians going to perform.

Q: How important is the internet for musicians in
South Africa? Some time ago I've read that you have to pay absurd prices for a connection and that it'd be cheaper to fly to Hongkong, download many gigabytes of data and fly back to SA instead of downloading it there.

Andile Yenana: It is very important as a marketing tool but unfortunately most of the musicians here in
South Africa can not afford it due to website construction high prices and monthly hosting fees. For me to have one created I had to get a better deal from Interjazz (USA), the same company that has created and hosting new McCoy Tyner website.

Q: Since I don't know very much about the South African jazz scene which musicians can you recommend me and the readers of jazz-not-jazz we should check out?

Andile Yenana: Feya Faku, Voice, Marcus Wyatt, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Zim Ngqawana, Heavy Spirits, Tlale Makhene, Carlo Mbombili, just to mention a few.

For more infos visit
sheer.co.za, 360entertainmentsa.com, cdbaby.com.


Dirk Binsau is an expert on Jazz and contemporary Black music. He blogs and broadcasts at Jazz-not-Jazz


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