On his Music is King EP, Black Coffee, collaborated with great vocalists, including Mondli Ngcobo, Samthing Soweto, Msaki, Zhao, Mbuso Khoza, as well as Nduduzo Makhathini.
I sat down with Nduduzo, who hails from Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.
Nduduzo is a pianist, healer, improviser, lecturer at the University of Fort Hare – where he is the head of the music department; and he is currently doing his Ph.D. there.
He names Busi Mhlongo, Jimmy Dludlu, Thandiswa Mazwai as some of the musicians he has worked with, adding that he has worked across genres.
“I have also worked with Lebo Mathosa. She was an amazing person. Just her energy … and what she stood for.”
Nduduzo’s most recent collaboration is with Black Coffee on the track called Muyè.
As he tells me this, I am taken aback and cannot hold my awe as this is the track I had been playing back-to-back on my phone the previous week. I didn’t know he worked on the track.
He hails Black Coffee as an amazing arranger who was able to articulate the concept very well.
All the tracks in Music is King are equally great. The ones I have jammed to are: Ndoda (featuring Something Soweto); Illala (featuring Mondli Mgcobo) and Drive All Night (featuring Montagu) – which most of us know.
The pressure that artists face
From a healer’s perspective, Nduduzo shares his view on depression that leads to suicide among artistic and/or creative people.
“It’s the pressures that people face. And I’m not blaming anyone. You have to understand that being a musician is a greater part of being a cultural worker, for instance, so you are working for the people. The idea of celebrity status can be problematic if you have to appear, speak and live in a certain way. But if you are really honest with yourself and you understand that you are serving the people, I think it just lessens some of the pressures. And it’s also important to link the gift with some deeper context. It’s not enough to say you play music, you need to know why you play it. That will save you in those dark days. It’s not enough to be talented, what’s important is appropriating that gift in the greater scheme and context of things.
“How I see it, like, I always have this picture: humanity as an orchestra with so many people playing. But if one part or piece of the orchestra is out of tune the whole orchestra is affected. So, when we understand our roles in society as big as that one as being in an orchestra, meaning if I am not playing my role to the best I can be, it’s affecting the greater …
“But also this view allows us to view ourselves in the context of a community. And I think the celebrity status pushes people away from the idea that is communal, that you have brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. So you become this island. And it can be very lonely once you have attained all of that [fame].
“Part of what is key is really to keep those links with ‘communities’ and understand that all the work that we do is for the community, so we contribute towards the greater work of healing this planet. If you think of it in that way you realize that even taking your own life is not worth it because you are taking away from other possibilities that exist within you, that rely on you for the planet to evolve. If you operate from that “community” context, let your pain be shared, if you have pain. I mean, the stage is a powerful place to project your pain and for people to take some off your shoulders. And it’s the same thing with our joys as well. We share it.