I always thought this Durban-based jazz piano composer, teacher, and performer, Sibusiso ‘Mash’ Mashiloane, was already pretty glued to ‘home’ ethnicities from which he derives his pride in studying and presenting South Africa’s musical demography.
In his most recent album, Closer to Home (2018), we hear how each hill that he traverses exudes its own musical dialects and landscape colours. Mash draws on creative spirits like the late greats of Winston Mankunku and Moses Molelekwa, and from other communities with whom he has stayed and shared, himself being a mix of influences among Ndebele, Pedi , Zulu, and Swazi, among others. Heritage and a place for safety and truth is ‘home’, as verbally announced in his first track. One starts with the indigenous longings. The album flows towards deeper identities, breaking any molds for specific types of jazz that has developed from past masters. Mashiloane holds truth with his chordal harmonic fifths, so prominent in the musical landscape.
Mash calls for relevancy and accuracy, which are essential criteria for him to choose the musicians featured on his album. He has done this masterfully, with the likes of spirited Nigerian guitarist, Kunle Ayo, percussionist Tlale Makhene, drummer Paki Peloeole, and bass guitarist Qhubekani Mthetwa. There is the brass section as well: Mthunzi Mvubu on saxophone, Thabo Sikhakhane on trumpet and Thembinkosi Ngcobo on trombone.
Elegance of tempo and message mark the delivery of this composer’s songs. “Naima” simply and softly conveys what’s hopeful and free, through the spoken word. Renditions from pianist Moses Molelekwa are evident throughout, as in “Molelekwa Spirt” and “Ke Mashiloane” with lots of chord structures and traditional sounds. Mash honours the jazz giants, as with Mankunku’s famous “Yakhal’ Nkomo”, and “African Heart” with shades of Zim Ngqawana’s spirit-bending.
It’s Makhene’s percussive presence that hits the heart, as in “Umthandazo”, another spoken word song with Mash’s soft chordal backing, and in “Naima”. Even a twisty “All Blues” honors Miles Davis as Mash uses the higher register of his keyboard to mimic Davis’ trumpet blues, with honesty and pride.
It is no wonder that Mashiloane will soon receive his Doctorate which focuses on South African music, and jazz in particular. His first two albums set the pace for digging deeper into those home roots, as in this third album. Amanz’ Olwandle (2016) received two Mzanti Jazz Awards as best Contemporary Jazz Album (decided by a jury) and Best Jazz Album (voted for by the public). His second album, Rotha – A Tribute to Mama (2017) , Mashiloane eloquently combines tradition with more universal jazz styles. What might his fourth album portray, one wonders? The roots wander far and wide, and his music will thus be endless and highly educational.
Sibusiso Mashiloane – piano & keyboard
Kunle Ayo – guitar
Tlale Makhene – percussions
Paki Peloeole – drums
Qhubekani Mthetwa – bass guitar
Mthunzi Mvubu – saxophone
Thabo Sikhakhane – trumpet
Thembinkosi Ngcobo – trombone
Mashiloane performs at the Muizenberg Jazz Festival on Friday, 16 November.