Spirit lifting, head turning, chuckles and smiles….. are utterances from the lively audiences exposed to the Durban-ladies-meet-Capetown-ladies, under the band name of “Heels Over Head”, a Durban-based all-female jazz pop band that started in 2008. And uplifting they were as they nestled us inside Gugulethu’s Kwa Sec house with a roaring fire and hard-to-find independent wines on sale. Three Durban gals linked up with Capetownians Nobuhle Ashanti Mazinyane on piano and keys, Tracey Johannes on bass guitar, and guitarist Arianna Carini who started with the Durban group and is presently studying classical Flamenco at the University of Capetown’s School of Music.
HOH’s tour through SA Concerts from their Durban base is a collaboration seeking to mentor and develop the talents of other female jazz and blues artists. This echos the band members’ own upbringings in musical families and youth orchestras.
Theirs is a special sound: funky blues with Carini’s killer guitar which adds the pop/rock feel; vocalist and HOH founder Thulile Zama, throws soulful ballads with a vocal control that speaks to ten years plus experience leading the Durban band.
Drummer Rebekah Doty. offers subtle rhythms that don’t overpower; Doty has also served in a military band before resuming her HOH link. The youngest member of this collaboration, Mazinyane’s keys are gentle and melodic. Her hands have matured; she plays with ease.
Their albums also feature pianists Taryn Kasaval and Lindi Ngonelo, bassist Tebogo Sedumedi, and a hot guitarist, Chillie, who ensures the flame endures in the band’s sonic fusion. Their first album in 2010, Could It Be, contains haunting African jazzics, such as ‘Pata Pata, with very danceable rhythms, melting smooth jazz as in ‘Betrayed’, the lively soul pop of the album’s title, ‘Could It Be’, and the upbeat drum ‘n bass funk remix of ‘Girlfriend’. This album exudes emotion, purpose, and message, all which has spiraled these ‘girls’ into a limelight of recognition.
Besides performing in various festivals, like Moshito, and at the 2017 Essence Festival in New
Orleans, USA, the group was nominated in 2011 for MTN SAMA AWARDS in the Contemporary Jazz category.
Their 2013 album, Sondela, presents a slower groove through the seasoned vocals of the musicians entwined in soft ballad harmonies, as in the popular ‘Ntilo Ntilo’ and in ‘Ngiyak’ Phica Phica’. Slow smooth jazz in a blues style around love themes, with the occasional mood setting of a trumpet, characterises this album quite differently to the 2010 album. If I had to choose between the two, Could It Be explains why the group was SAMA nominated in 2011.
Vocalist and founder, Thulile Zama, explains how HOH members managed to stay together for 10 years: “Few bands have survived over the years. We have worked for many years to create opportunities for ourselves. It has been a great experience, both enriching and humbling, and we will continue to offer platforms for female musicians.”
Drummer Rebekah Doty adds: “We want to be an example to other female musicians and show them that everything is possible. We have performed for so many different audiences throughout the years. Still being together after 10 years is a great motivation to keep the band going.”
The style of the Heels Over Head gals, both on and off the stage, reveals how these well-dressed ladies approach their art seriously but with glee and pizzaz, seeking to musically entertain and make us all feel good….and perhaps ready for more wine and chats! See the following links:
You Tube: www.youtube.com/isupportdoyou