The Ones that Came Through the Sky

So we are told that the first humans to arrive on planet earth were musical beings. They were magicians who could sing things into existence. These beings were steeped in the sciences of sound and they traveled through space teaching songs of ancient gods. From the ancient gods they learned that the mother of all creation was the invention of the drum. These beings lived in a time-period where the major purpose of being was to travel between planets mediating messages from the gods.

We are also told that, each time these beings would leave a given planet, it would soon disappear behind them. It is noted that their last trip was to planet earth. They came through the sky into a quiet world immersed in still waters. Upon their arrival, they each possessed a drum that was given to them by the ancient gods. It is through the drum that the initial sound would manifest as form that we see around us and call earth today.

According to this school of thought, it is the sound that gave birth to all things and someday all shall return to silence.



Nduduzo Makhathini

The Significance of Stories in Today’s Songs: Indaba Is


‘The beat of the drums can cure what no medication can cure; it can heal the ills of the mind –– it can heal the very soul.’ (Mutwa, 1998: 668)

The quotation above is borrowed from iSanusi uCredoVusamaZulu Mutwa’s seminal text Indaba my Children (1998), regarded by many as the ‘African Bible’. Mutwa who had recently transitioned on 25 March 2020 back to the realm of the ancestors, had been prophesying about the coming of the evil ones, the brainwash of Africa and the coming of deadly diseases among other problems facing the continent. His writings, teachings, poems, songs and sculptures, produced over many years, formed a counter-narrative against the catastrophes mentioned above, which he felt were slowly erasing being from our consciousness. Of course, this erasure comes as the aftermath of slavery, colonialism and of late, apartheid. Given these circumstances, we have found ourselves asking questions such as, what is left? or a more cliché one here in South Africa, Senzeni Na? (what have done?). Mutwa felt that these were pertinent questions and needed multiple responses. His knowledge about Africa was to provide a glimpse into the precolonial practices, and ultimately lead Africa to her healing. It is thus paradoxicaland perhaps symbolic that Mutwa would leave us just before the dominance of the coronavirus around the world.


We have lost a sage in a period of sicknesses, ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ under which humans fear one another and gathering of any kind is restricted. At a deeper level, this time-period is challenging beyond the sicknesses of the body but challenges our methods of solution making here in Africa. For instance, in yesteryears, when the rocks were still soft, in the midst turmoil and pandemics the elders would receive dreams and visions. Guided by the unseen forces, the elders would gather, climb the hills and mountains, visit riverbanks to perform rituals and songs, seeking intervention from gods. On the contrary, during the post-Mutwa time-period we find ourselves fearing the very thought of being around others, we sit in isolation and wait for death to find us. In this sense, we are unable to look for solutions within our cultural constructs, concepts and worldviews, but we continue succumbing to Western dictatorship that is based on deep-pocketed sources of funded research positioned as authorities on well-being and solutions. This moment has put us into deep amnesia, we have forgotten ourselves and our healers have no place, so is our poets and drummers. While Ubuntu asserts that (well) being (and harmony) can only be achieved in the context of community and being with others –– we seek solutions in isolation. 


In seeking restoration of our wholeness, Indaba Is (2020) was born: partly as a response to the great Sanusi’s call (now on the other side) but also as a vehicle of storying (and perhaps storing) the legacies of storytellers that are left. In a time-period when it is made impossible to gather around the fire, listen to stories and play the drum, this project created an opportunity for the jazz community here in South Africa togather around the sonic. Here the sound burns fires to keep our communities, shacking in the coldness of death, warm. There is a notion that people are born into stories, but what sort of stories is the generation after us born into, if we allow our legacies to perish? If we agree with the perception that we are born into stories, then it is also true that we are born into songs and thus we are the people of the drum. From the beating of our mothers’ hearts, we are born into the meditative drums of our ancestors. We are born into and with songs and we live our lives attempting to sing in harmony. It is in seeking this harmony (ubuntu) that our healing finds us.


Our foremothers/fathers believed that we lived in a multidimensional reality. While they were concerned with their family and community around them, they simultaneously interacted with invisible worlds around him. This is what Mutwa teaches us, that when we are in deep sleep, we are in unison with ithongo (the ancestor) thus ukuphupha (to dream) is to float in the grace of divinities. Similarly, songs in the context of ritual bind us with the dimensions of our ancestors and those of the ones yet-to-be-born. This is the core of African cosmology that songs emerge from. We live here now, before and forever, all in one moment.


Informed by this background, one can already see that our ancestors found deep relationships with songs. Song are passageways to complete our immortal-ness. If we were to believe that songs, similar to stories, are mythical narratives reflecting some remote past –– a way that our ancestors lived –– then it is not farfetched to claim that Indaba Is is an attempt to constructs new myths. While we live here, songs allow us into suspended time or elastic paradigms of time that transport us to the past and the future. It is this level of depththat this community of musicians in South Africa, in various ways, is seeking deep within sound. This is a generation that is seeking to understand the stories that live inside songs and similarly the healing properties that manifest from the sound. This is a generation of improvisers that accepts the impossibility of living in one paradigm or one notion of truth. Thus, it is a generation that finds it important to fosterrelationships with the many sonic worlds/dimensions from which these songs emerge.


This generation is brought here by history. In recent years, there has been many questions around a decolonial project (and some of which I highlighted earlier) and what that entails in former colonial zones. The traces of these questions are evoked in Fees Must Fall and Rhodes Must Fall movements, and in calls to decolonize the curriculum. Alongside these pivotal moments we have witnessed how the current jazz scene in South Africa has been dealing with these questions inside the sound, not only creating a soundtrack to these movements but also confronting these issues in their sound. This is evident in the compositional styles, liner notes, album artworks and underlying concepts. At least since 2010, there is a noticeable shift or an intentional restoration of folk elements in jazz. That is to say, there is an incredible use of collective memory to bring about indigenous worldviews and sonic gestures that predates the arrival of ‘jazz’ in our shores. In seeking to understand the sound in Indaba Is, it is necessary to understand the teachings of Mutwa of the precolonial. Although this past is not entirely documented, it is within our imagination to locate the secrets of our early ancestors and sound them out in our anthems. In this sense, imagination is not abstract but a reality of elsewhere. It is also not utopia, but it lives. As we walk on these lands, we are constantly citing buried pasts, forgotten tales and songs from beneath our feet. Alluding to this notion, in IsiZulu the elders would say ‘ukuhamba ukubona’ meaning we know by the experiences of having walked the journey –– we are taught by our very mountains and valleys.  


Indaba Is read in the contexts suggested in this text could be understood as a refusal to look at the self from foreign doctrines and lens. It is an affirmation that storying our myths and tales is a collective responsibility of the ones that live. We are doing for our children what our foremothers/fathers have done for us. Some, like Mutwa, have dedicated their lives in the world to the vastness of their work despite the limitations of living in the body. They now form a strong alliance of ancestors who are protecting and shining light over us. Similarly, we are here dedicating songs to our children not-yet-born. 


Ode to a new world,

MaKhosi AmaKhulu!!! Siyavuma

Nduduzo Makhathini

Written for Brownswood Fanzine

Beyond the Stars

This record comes at a time when everyone is looking for Bheki Mseleku, whether in the current jazz moment in South Africa or in London where he was exiled. Since Mseleku’s passing on the 9th of September 2008, there has been a noticeable growth of interest in his life and work. Hisinfluence on current jazz voices in South Africa is vast –compositionally, pianistically (some follow him as a saxophonist) and philosophically. As someone who believed strongly in ideas of afterlife and reincarnation, it is not difficult to see significance in Mseleku’s sudden re-emergence into current conversations around jazz globally.

Towards the end of Mseleku’s life (one of many lives, as he believed), we begin to see some kind of conflict emerge within his notion of home. Perhaps this was partly due to insufficient recognition back in South Africa, relative to that received by his fellow exiled contemporaries in the post ’94 moment. His only South African release, 2003’s Home at Last (Sheer Sound), poses significant questions about what constitutes our notion of home. Is home a geographic location? Is home a spiritual construct? Is home a people who inhabit a particular space, their dance and song? His departure back to London in 2005 suggests that thecountry of his birth might not have provided him with all the answers to such questions.

Having listened many times to Beyond the Stars, both in tears and in absolute bliss, the album provides a variety of responses to these questions of home. Compositionally, Mseleku takes the listener on a sonic pilgrimage from the beautiful and organic landscapes of Durban, to the vibrant city energy of London and ultimately towards the innerdimensions of one’s being. The record opens with ‘Cosmic Dance’, which is deeply anchored in South African musical expressions and traditions, and concludes with ‘Transcendence’, a reminder that the ultimate goal is totranscend all physical limitations, and travel towards nirvana. In this way, Mseleku prepares us and victoriously paints a divine summary of his life story. 

Though Mseleku was in London at the time of the recording, his memories of South Africa are further evoked in tunes such as ‘Izanusi’ (The Diviners) and ‘Ekhaya’ (Home), which signal his lasting connection to the music of his people, music which he absorbed in his upbringing in South Africa. While ‘Izanusi’ deals with an ancient Zulu music style referred to as amahubo (popularized by Princess Magogo), ‘Ekhaya’ is based on a later genre called marabi (this style emerged in the early 1920s), moving through its characteristic I IV V progression whilst Mseleku also draws closer to home throughhis use of maskanda articulation. 

In ‘Isango’ (The Gateway), Mseleku opens in a reflective mood and soon develops a subtle groove. Later in this track he brings in his signature chants, again borrowing from the Nguni tribes of Southern Africa. His improvisation invokes the spirit of McCoy Tyner and Alice Coltrane, whom he looked up to. Keeping that in mind, some of Mseleku’s greatest influences came out of the diaspora in the Americas. This chapter of his story is beautifully narrated through ‘Light of Love’, both in his choice of harmonies and his improvisation.

Though Mseleku had previously recorded a lot of composed and arranged music, on this record it feels as though he is deliberately modulating between what exists in the present, and future possibilities. In that dichotomy, Mseleku also explores what lives in the liminal space – that which is divorced from the realm of the known past, but has not yetreached the present. It is this part that exists ‘beyond the stars’, where Mseleku has finally found his home.

For the ones that are left behind, the reflectiveness of this record becomes a portal for healing. While it is clear how Mseleku generated healing vibrations for himself through the record, it is with the same intensity that our encounter with this work is located in the healing rivers of Mseleku’s tears. 

Let me take no further time from you. If you have not listened to this record, now is the time to do so.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Listen and download album:


Here I live in water. From a distance, I hear the Sun Race. I hear their drums and feel their spirits.

But I have never seen the sun. Although I am privileged to feel the light. I have also not seen the stars or the moon. Mother ocean sings to the moon. Sometimes the moon whispered back. And so I have experienced glimpses her voice.

Here in the ocean our water is sweet. But often it is salty and other times sower. I drink and eat according to mother’s will. As I grow I yearn to have choose what I drink. But I have to be born to have choices.

I also want to see the world. In my dreams I have created images of it. I see colours of a world I have never seen.

But before I could make a sound. I suddenly heard voices from whence I came. Now I have returned to this dark place. This is a place of no doing. A place of the invisible. Underneath the Earth now I live.

But I still wish to see the word. I hear the whispers of the spirits.

Here I wait and wonder

In a Vision

Nduduzo Makhathini (15.01.2021)

Imidlalo Yezithunzi

While we walk on this earth, doing our best to tell our stories — right besides us, our shadows tell their own stories. Sometimes it’s a different tale but often more truthful than that which we could tell ourselves.

But we try nonetheless, though in world of improvisation we are already attempting the impossible. While it is a known fact that it is impossible, simultaneously, that is our main reason for doing it. The act of improvising, is in itself a meditation towards accepting both the impossibility and imperfection as a result of improvisation.

Thus, as we imagine the shadow to be a reflection of ourselves that depends on us to exist — the reverse could also be true. We are in a constant improvisation with light, time and time again the shadow displays this infinite dialoging.

Nduduzo Makhathini 20102020

Signs and Symbols: Letters from the Underworlds

As I move to the next chapter, I thought it would important to leave you with a description of the signs and symbols, however briefly, that were used in the artwork of ‘Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds’ and what they mean in the context of this album.

I have said before that the general concept of the album was to cite a sound world from elsewhere. The citation then led to the notion of a letter, symbolic of an ancestral voice.

There are four main themes on this album cover, each deals with a unique mode of storytelling using sacred geometry. Most of the symbols used here, and elsewhere in my work, locate Egypt (Kemet) as a place of origin.

From the top left corner going clockwise we have the moon, a pyramid, a butterfly and God Khnum of ancient Egypt. There is also a consistent presence of Vesica Piscis representing the connections and communication signals between three worlds; the underworlds, terrestrial and celestial plans. This trinity is intrinsic in our African worldview.

The moon here represents the mother, the origins of all things but also balance in all living things in the universe. The pyramid represents what is left of our memory, it also stands a resting place for our soul and our immortal-ness. The butterfly signifies our spiritual rebirth on the other side of life, a manifestation of be-ing in the spirit world elsewhere. God Khnum stands for the making and creation of a new man who carries the letters from the underworlds.

Nduduzo Makhathini

Design: @crozier.sean
Picture: @fotoboothdurban

Umlotha – the Post-burning

‘Umlotha’ features on Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds (2020) on Blue Note Records. The project is a thought that breaks into sound towards a sounding out the messages, texts and songs of elsewhere. In this sense, the project seeks to remind us of the totality of an African worldview that sees existence in the form of spirit –– thus, acknowledges a parallel dialoguing between the living, the ancestors and the children not yet born but conceived in spirit. ‘Umlotha’ is a symbol, evidence or a manifestation of these multi-realm interactions.

Loosely translated, umlotha is a Zulu word for ashes. Over many years, African peoples around the continent have used ashes for various purposes including cleansing, protection and other healing purposes sometimes in a form of isiwasho (blessed waters). Here the song explores these aspects at a sonic register but also look at the symbolic spheres of ashes. That is to say, in this piece I look at ashes as evidence of a particular event having taken place –– a trace of past happenings.

In the context of the continent, I think about the erasure of our histories and how one remembers from such disparities of evidence. Again, at a sonic register, how do we recall sounds that have been removed and displaced from their source –– how do we tell stories that have been stolen from their originators?

Africa suffers a history of burnt memories. In this sense, umlotha symbolises the post-burning and that which remains after these catastrophes (slave trade, colonization and apartheid) have gone. But umlotha also represents a refusal to be completely removed from history, it is a mode of protest. For instance, in the context of a ritual ceremony, umlotha lives as remains representing the success of a given ceremony but also a living memory of the intensions coded in ritual.

Below is a short script I wrote as a guideline to the making of this music video, explored in four movements; Preparation, Invocation, Healing and Rebirth

Scene 1 preparation (0.00):

This scene opens with a man detached from his past; he has been trying to get home. Somewhere in the wilderness under a dry tree[1], he sleeps on his bed of memory[2], he suddenly falls into deep sleep[3]. He then enters a dream where he is shown a glimpse of his journey ahead. He then wakes up and starts walking to the land of his ancestors. While he walks, an ancestor emerges from another register of existence (celestial or underworlds feeling/or hologram). Soon a guide (an elder) appears and takes him to a place of ritual. As moon was watching, at night they finally arrive at the village and they are welcomed by the dancers and drummers who are the trusted knowledge keepers ordained by the ancient gods.

Scene 2 invocation (2:50):

In this scene fire is a dominating theme and represents a making of a lost world. The intensity of the fire grows, and at the centre a mbira[4] (thumb piano) emerges inside the flame. At some point the man stretches his arm grabs the mbira. He then moves to the ritual place (umsamu) and starts play the song of the ancient gods that he had received in a dream. The ritual dance begins here. As the music develops an image of great the pyramids develop behind, a memory of the great Kemet. The focus here is on the dance ensemble and the drums, while an ancient goddess dances in another world acknowledging the arrival of her son. Towards the end I see a God image appearing from behind the pyramid[5] interacting with the sun/moon.

Scene 3 healing (4:20):

The man falls into a deep trance, his body gets animated. I imagine a lot of flashes with the light at this point. I see this as a dramatic scene. I also see everyone dissolving into the soil at some point. Perhaps an underwater ritual. An image of the womb would be amazing at this point, perhaps water as a representation of birth or towards birth. Later we can emerge from the ground into a new world.

Scene 4 rebirth (7:00):

In this scene all worlds collapse into one, invoking a wholeness of an African worldview beyond the material and exposing that which lives in the invisible worlds. The ritual goddess reaches the fireplace and sprinkles the ashes. At this point the man is dressed in all white[6] with an Ank symbol in his forehead. This is a tranquil scene, almost in a utopian mode. The pace gets really slow at this point until it all disappears back to a new world. Then a stream of eternity emerges as a symbol of continuity and flow –– also a renewed strength.

List of symbols:

Below are some Kemet hieroglyphics incorporated in the video. The intention is to evoke a lost world and what lives behind as memory of these worlds towards a languaging of our imaginations.

Written and Conceptualised by Nduduzo Makhathini


[1] Symbolic of lost dreams

[2] Memory here is invoked in the ancient Kemet symbols

[3] Here deep sleep refers to being one with one’s ancestors –– ubu-thongo

[4] Here the mbira symbolizes the spirits of the Vadzimu that predates the making of the Western piano.

[5] The pyramids here represent black origin but also a triadic worldview of an African that informs our immortality.

[6] The color white here stands for purity and is a symbol of invocations to the Orishas as understood within ancient Yoruba cultures.

Link to Video:

Imithandazo YakwaNtu

‘Imithandazo YakwaNtu’

This two night series will look into the notion of prayer within an African context. In IsiZulu prayer is umuthandazo, if we break this word down to a hyphenated word it becomes umu (becoming)-thanda (to love)-zo (moving). Thus, prayer within this register could be understood as a moving towards the essence of love (towards Umvelikuqala) or becoming love-like.

Another word for prayer is umkhuleko which means to be bound together in spirit. In this sense, these fundamental questions are then of interest: ‘What constitute prayer inAfrica?’ and ‘What is the role of prayer in Africa?’ In seeking to respond to these questions, I invoke Princess Magogo’s lyrics on ‘Onoms’oPhezukonke’ which I regard as an example of an African prayer.

In the broadest sense, Magogo’s piece suggests that, our ancestors (oNtu) based their religiosities on their relationship with the cosmos –– wherein they perceived being as a conversation between both the material and metaphysical worlds. Thus, prayer became a bridge between our immediate world and elsewhere. This mode of parallel existence is evident in African life, hence our ancestors constantly harnessed life through prayer, rituals, libations and song.

This is the background from which the music I am about to present emanated, paired with what is happening to black peoples (and all peoples) around the world. It felt as though we needed a common prayer, and here I present one suggestion.

This prayer will be in four movements each cover in a form of a set. These movements are: Libations, Elsewhere, The Cure and Returning



Nduduzo Makhathini

These thoughts are towards my upcoming presentation in Johannesburg this Friday and Saturday. See link below:

Finding Home

As though I had reached the heart of the earth, I suddenly felt no need, I knew that I had come nearer to home. As I was told by my guide: “many years ago just after you were born and while your fist was still closed — you were taken away from your tribe.” She then continued and said: “before you could speak the languages of your people, you crossed the oceans and beyond into lands that were foreign.” She concluded saying that the ones that captured me feared the power of my foremothers/fathers and the songs that immortalized them.

But in this moment I had been found by sound. I’m in unison with the sound that carried me over many seas back home. I now look to find the lands that had given birth to me, where my umbilical chord was buried. But I had been traveling for many hours and my body was tired. I then fell into deep sleep here in the wilderness.

I entered a dream where an elderly man approached me, he asked that I open my hands. From the palm of my hands I saw an image of a village. I saw contour-like lines that crossed like streams forming a map image. Then from his bag the elderly man reached for a needle and injected it almost at the center of my right hand. It was so painful such that I immediately awoke from the dream.


Now I know that man lives in a dream state until he is awaken by his own purpose. Purpose is then our way home, but again if we fail we fall into deep sleep until the circle is completed.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Senze’nina: The Creation of a New Man

Let’s think together about this question ‘senzenina?’ (what have we done?). I recall the same question under apartheid — now it has re-emerged in the context of gender based violence. But it’s unfair for women to go as far as asking themselves this question while we know they’ve not done anything. Perhaps similar to how we were [are] victimized under apartheid to a point where we felt we had done something wrong to be terribly dehumanized by the colonial system.

Of course I can’t eloquently put all my thoughts here in a way that expresses meaningfully my feelings as I write. But I do get ‘senzenina?’ as a meditation in both contexts that I highlighted earlier. I am not against this notion but posing a rethinking or an alternate frame.

Long story short;

Some two months ago we presented ‘Meditation of the Uprising’ within which we explored a musical piece I call ‘Senzenina!’ (with an exclamation mark).

In the context of this piece ‘senzenina’ is not a question but a plea. Equally, it is not about women but men. If you look at the word the first part is ‘senze’ means ‘make/recreate us’ and the second part ‘nina’ refers to the makers and carriers. In this sense we as men need to be recreated, there is a part of us that has died for us to cause so much violence. Thus we need to go back to our essence, the womb of a mother.

The lyrics of the chant are ‘safa saphela, senzi’nina senzenina’

Here is a video of the ritual at the Untitled Basement in Johannesburg on June the 16th 2020


‘I make these sketches for almost every ritual/concert (thinking-doing-reflecting), here is one for tomorrow. Also on a flight to Johannesburg this afternoon I had these thoughts… See photo at the bottom of the text.

I have seen and heard so much under the sun. This body has memories of pain—with ears familiar with the sound of gun shots and a nose that has witnessed the smell of a tear gas and that of blood.

Sometimes tears run down my face and disappear before they could reach the ground. I’m beginning to believe that these tears evaporate and hide deep in my consciousness, so as to rain down my cheeks again when pain finds me.

Strange, very strange—at times when these tears fall, I appreciate the warmth they bring to my face. For a little while it’s as though I had no pain in my heart. But this pain knows how to find me.

There are moments of victory where pain breaks into song. The sounds of these songs refuse to be painful. I wish that these song would never end. Inside these songs we have built homes.

I feel a glimpse of peace.

Nduduzo Makhathini

Senze’nina: The Making of a New Man

From the infinite flames of fire he emerged and between the eyes of consciousness he came. He was sent through the eyes of the big gods from where he shot out like a volcano. But he knew that his journey too needed to be born. He remembered that in order to be born he needed a new body.

So as he came to the world he realized that he urgently needed to dissolve his fiery state back to a sparkle of potentiality. To attain physicality he understood that he was to be born again. And so in the ocean of the mother’s womb he walked through the knowledge of all the nine planets. The completion of his journey signaled his birth. But when he was born he encountered a new form of light, he met the sun. His encounter with the spirit of the sun removed all that he knew before. The record of his past lives were forgotten. Now he lives his entire life seeking to reveal the truth of being and to awaken from the blinding state of amnesia.


Nduduzo Makhathini


A Man who Lost his Shadow

When he eventually woke up, he felt weak. He knew that something had been taken away from him. Between his eyes he felt a numbness never experienced before, almost as though a part of his flesh had been removed. He also felt that his fiery energy had been muted somewhere in his consciousness. But he had no memory of what had happened.

When he stood up and tried to walk, he felt as though he was establishing a new relationship with gravity, his body was heavier. His knees were shaking and his feet felt distant from the ground. As he walked each step he took felt meaningless. He felt an intense disconnect with the cosmos as though he lived with no purpose.

He looked to the sun hoping that through the sun rays, maybe the truth will emerge. He looked around to see if he could perhaps see and ask someone about this strange experience he just had, but there was no help available to him. Even the beings he saw around him were unlike him and they spoke a foreign tongue. For the most part, he seemed invisible to them as they did not acknowledged his presence.

He became thirsty and so he went by the river of his great ancestors to drink. Upon his arrival he looked at himself as he was being reflected in the water. He saw a familiar image of himself, but somewhat disconnected from its essence. He drank from the water but his thirst was not quenched.

He then decided to go back home. While he walked back, he also noticed that his shadow had vanished.

He was getting weaker and he fell on the ground and suddenly an unusual being with three eyes stood above his head and said; ‘You now belong to my tribe and you shall not know anything except for that which I tell you.’

He soon transformed to speak a new language, prayed to a different god but to this day he wonders about his own. In the lands once his forefathers he now lives like a visitor constantly meditating on the journey ahead. Only in deep dreams he feels a sense of belonging.

Iphupho 13062020

Nduduzo Makhathini

The Story of Songs

A beautiful song had been traveling from a faraway world in search of her unknown mother. As a song, she had been told in her dreams that she possessed a charming voice, but when she was awake no one could hear her. This bothered her for many years. Some elders of her kind had told her that she will only manifest as sound in the presence of her mother whom will give her as a gift to the greatest musician.

She also learned that, somewhere in another world her mother awaits her in meditation, she awaits quietly. Some also told her that, her mother was kind and over many years she had been blessing all living things with the gift of sound. In other planets, praise singers worshipped her mother as a goddess from which all creation is born.

The more she heard about these stories, her heart jumped with anticipation for this meeting with a special being. She traveled at a like light though she had no knowledge of where she was heading. She went to many worlds, she heard birds and human beings that sung beautifully but when she spoke to them no one could hear her.

Sometimes she would hide and cry painfully thinking that, perhaps she had been cursed for not being obedient. She prayed to her mother but she could not hear her respond. She expected to hear the sound of her mother’s voice.

As she travelled past a great village of the praise singers she felt a presence that she had never felt before. She wondered about life in the village. It was the most quiet place she had ever been to, people of the village never spoke and during specific rituals they would sing. When they sung, the entire village vibrated. The soil produce food. The streams and rivers will over flow with water. The sun knew their voices and the sky followed the tonality of their song. The moon danced to their drum.

Still amazed at the power of these beings, everything went quite again. This time she did not panic but immersed herself with silence and soon the praise singer chanted her melody.

And that how all songs find their sound, when they join their mother silence in meditation.

Silence the Mother of all

Nduduzo Makhathini


To Find not, but to be Found

Then a group of men appeared. They were dressed in golden garments. They looked alike. They sung a ‘Song of Songs’

They followed the river current. They traveled in a Southerly direction. They adhered to the sound of birds. They knew gravity and grace similarly.

These men were seekers. They had been to every village. They lived and spoke the truth. All living things smiled at their presence.

Their seeking knew no finding. They were seeking as purpose for being.

These men were invisible.They were only seen by fellow seekers. Their ultimate meditation was invisibility. They knew that their Gods were invisible.

These men had no possession. They were possessed by the truth. The truth of being silent. The truth of being invisible. The truth of being found.

Izwi likaMoya

Nduduzo Makhathini


Dreams of the Earth

A woman that was old, had lived for many centuries. Her grandchildren once asked, ‘what is the ultimate wisdom’. She told them that ‘it is to understand how the universe dreams’.

She also told them that, ‘as much as humans were gifted the capacity to dream, it was also necessary for them to have intimate connections with the cosmos’. She believed that the universe operated in equations, thus the manifestation of human dreams relied on synchronicities with the cosmological spheres.

One day the old woman, told her grandchildren that she was leaving to join her ancestors in the other worlds. As they listened closely, she said ‘follow your dreams to the very end’ and she died.

As the children grew older they wondered about the deeper meaning of their grandmothers last words of wisdom. Some of the children saw her in dreams but could not figure out a way of enquiring on her last message. Some heard her voice calling them from a faraway place. As time went by her voice became more audible, the dreams more clearer.

One day the children decided to follow her voice, and perhaps in that way they could reach their dreams. The children wanted to live a more purposeful life, they wanted to be in harmony with the cosmic dream.

Out in the wilderness, they follow the voice of their grandmother. At some point they would follow one direction when eventually they would realize that the voice was now calling from the opposite side. Her voice reverberated in the mountains and caves causing an endless echoe that confused the direction of the message. The children started to become tired and weak, some children complained saying that, ‘the journey didn’t have get the blessings of the elders hence such dismay’.

They soon arrived in a deserted land, the sand was so dry and hot, their feet were burning. Some cried, in another realm the old women felt so much pain and she appeared right above their heads. She said ‘you are now close to the cosmic dream’. She also carried bottles of water, she gave to them and disappeared.

After they had drank, they felt as though gravity was pulling their feet deep into the ground. Their feet were still burning, but they had forgotten about that, the burning was now that of their eagerness to know their dreams. They had transcended fear and pain.

Soon the gravitational pull had intensified even stronger, they could no longer walk. A huge flame emerged from their feet and they engulfed in in a huge fire but not burning. Other beings emerged inside the flame, they were short with reptilian tails and multiple hands. These beings sung in an ancient tongue, the children remembered this song and they joined in the singing.

To this day it is not know what followed. People in village claim that the children becomes birds and they found their dream. They now sing everyday with the sounds of the spheres.

Isipho Sabadala

Nduduzo Makhathini

The Shepherd

There once lived a family of shepherds, from generation to the next, the secret knowledge of looking after cattle had been transmitted in somewhat mystical ways. After several dreams and visitations by the ones whom have departed — a chosen one in the every generation would disappear into the wilderness to be initiated for the gift.

The initiate would be guided by the elders into a secret place. To this day, the secret place remains unkown to men, even the elders whom acted as guides would not enter but while await from outside, they would pray for the gods to receive the initiate. Nonetheless, due to curiosity and ignorance towards the sacredness of this practice, it is said that some people have made attempts to enter the secret place and have since disappeared from the face of the earth. The elders say, this place can only be reached when one has a calling that in itself is passed on by from the departed ones.

It was know by the villagers that the secret place was a sacred space of the gods. Upon their return, some initiates had shared about a technology that was used during their initiation. They referenced a fingerprint system that was used to transfer information and past histories from the gods to men.

In ritual, the initiates would also be granted gifts of the wilderness. This rite of passage was understood as the process of opening the sixth sense, towards a heightened ability to anticipate danger through the ankles and a method to foresee the future among other things. To complete the training, the last three days initiation would be spent in a dream where one travels to extraterrestrial heights. It’s believed that our earlier ancestors and their gods lived out there.

Initiates would also be given tasks to take into their dream. One such tasks was to learn one common dialect, a spoken language that was understood ranging from humans, animals and right across to plants. Some claimed that the language could also be used to communicate to unseen gods and other divinities of the wilderness.

Many people in the family of shepherds had these gifts. There were also rumors that, over the years, they had super powers to communicate from miles away through whistling. Some claimed that, the family used the whistling technique to steal cows from other tribes. This led to other tribes attacking the family at various times in their history. As a result and the initiate in the secret place was the last in the last to graduate.

When he graduated he came back home and looked after a huge herd of cattle. But after a while, he became lonely as most of his family had died during tribal wars, and the elders in the village were also aging. While he was in wilderness with the cattle, he would invent musical instruments that he played to achieve companionship. Some say these instruments are still found in the mountains, and it’s believed that they create sounds on their own.

After many years of being a shepherd, the chosen one was getting old and gradually loosing his eye sight. It is said that he continued to travel and herd cattle without seeing, he had mastered and internalized the journey. But as years went by, he could not walk. Some say he would be awake at night and sleep during the day, while heading the cattle in his dreams.

He eventually died as he was becoming weaker and weaker. It is said that on day he died the cattle vanished.

Iphupho 21032020

Nduduzo Makhathini

A Forgotten Race

Over many days, I had fallen into deep sleep, I traveled many places and dimensions seeing various forms of existence. I could no longer tell the difference between what I saw in dreams and in reality. Life on earth had completely transformed and the experiences in the world matched those in dreams. The once thought of as the impossible was now upon us.

Moving between two forms of sleep, caught in a parallel dream state, I soon woke up. The sun rays shined directly into my eyes, and it felt as though I had just been born, like a new born child from the mother’s womb having their initial contact with light.

I tried to raise my head but I was very weak. Around me, stood three elderly women whom I did not know. One stood at the edge of my feet, another near my left arm and the other right next to my head.

In their heads, they carried large calabashes that dripped of an oily substance. I also noticed that all them had wings that covered most of their bodies. They looked alike and everything they did was in sync. They also spoke with the same voice. The only physical difference I could noticed between them was the one above my head had three eyes.

As I listen to them, I recalled their voices in my dream, they had been whispering in my ears when I was asleep. As my memory slowly gathered consciousness, I remembered that I had also seen them in my dream. They spoke of a different race that was to enter our planet. They warned that those who had power and who are now hiding in unkown places, were the only ones that knew about the coming of the unkown race. The rest of humanity had disappeared into extinction.

The elderly women continued and said they are here to save me. They sad they had prepared a place for me elsewhere, where our forefathers had gone.

They said that before extinction, humans had tried to escape the turmoil, the elders had gone up to the mountains to pray to the gods but disappeared. Some built arks, and some invented aircraft but none survived the harshness of life on earth.

They said the world had been sold to another race by men that looked like ourselves but had power over the world. In return these men were promised space to hide here on earth even when all the other beings had gone.

As I listened a huge synthetic voice emerged as though coming from the sky and said, ‘we walked on this earth before you, the memories you call your own are ours. We created all that you see around you’. As the voice echoed, everything began to disappear. I could no longer see myself or the elderly women whom were telling tales.



Nduduzo Makhathini


Often when I approach the bandstand, I see images. These images sometimes move, at times they speak and sometimes they are still.

An image I see frequently, is that of myself jumping from the highest mountain. As I jump it seems as though I’m simultaneously cognizant of the possibility of falling and perhaps hurting myself. At the same time, I feel also attracted to the idea of jumping regardless of the consequences.

In other moments, after jumping I float long enough to a point where I start thinking that I’m carried by a grace that is stronger than any gravitational fields. At the back of my mind I also feel that a glimpse of grace, a short lived moment floating and be-ing in the air is worth the probability of falling with all its implications.

This bandstand situation in improvisation has also taught me that navigation and walking these journeys is in itself is an accomplishment. As such I have learned that goals in a sense of reaching, finding and arriving to something are to a certain extent some type of illusions. I have learned to make my process matter, doing is my new fascination, just to be immersed in process itself is fulfilling.

In my dreams I float with the wind, through this body I improvisor, inside the song I divine but in the true essence of my spirit I fly.

Thoughts on improvisation

Nduduzo Makhathini


Unkown Places

Somewhere on planet earth, in some hidden lands still not known to man, not ‘discovered’ and not ‘colonized’, the tales and myths of a people had remained sacred. Throughout many years their secret knowledges were passed down from generation to the next through storytelling, the drum and song.

Until this one time, when at the middle of the night an unusual noise was heard. It sounded like screams of angry gods. Many said it came from what appeared to be a huge spacecraft floating above the sky. Some said they felt it from underneath their feet. While some said ‘it’s the end of the world!!!’

Caught in all the confusion, suddenly everyone fell on the ground as though pulled by some mysterious gravitational force. No one could rise as they felt weak at this point, for sometime they could not open their eyes and soon they all fell into a long and deep sleep.

After many years, the tribe eventually woke up and was confronted with a reality of their lost years. Though they remembered their dreams vividly, on the contrary they struggled to recall anything else that took place before their deep sleep. Memories of themselves, their past, languages and ancestors were all lost. Looking around they were drawn to the multiple layers of evidence of human existence, there saw traces of human history that surrounded them but could not draw an links with their awaken-ness.

Such an intense level of amnesia brought so many uncertainties to the people. To this day it is unknown what took place before and during their sleep, but they all remember entering a dream state. As they they related the story, they told us that, in their dreams they traveled at high speeds to far away places, not seen or even imagined before. Some said in their dreams, they spoke in unknown tongues and some remembered unusual flying beings that appeared to be in a continuous trance, a ritual dance. Others even claimed to have had ancestry, that they had left behind in their dreams unable to invite on this side.

The tribe wondered about who they were before, they knew that they had a history hidden from their awareness, a past that defined them. As advised by the elders, this moment saw the tribe collecting all musical instruments especially the drums of various kinds and sizes. The belief became that, even though most of their stories and songs had been wiped off their consciousness, the wise ones asserted that all could be remembered through sound and its intentions that remain in silence, somewhere in space. They said silence was the carrier of all memories. From an old bag, and they pulled out an ancient text.

In unison they read with such a depth, it resonated and echoed in the caves where their ancestors lived and practiced their rituals, it reached the heart of the village. After several hours of chanting, drumming and even clapping it all dissolved into silence and stillness. In silence, the people’s memory emerged, through revelations they remembered the stories of their gods and as they did, one after the other they followed the stars and their bodies disappeared to unknown places.



The River of the Great Serpent

In a dream, I met a stranger and after a long conversation about things of the spirit, I found myself asking ‘who are you and where do you live?’ She responded, ‘I live everywhere where I’m needed. I am a servant of the great ones that live under the waters, I live my life traveling between multiple planes passing their messages.’ I then said ‘I want to travel where you go and live where you live.’ She responded ‘you need to first awaken from your deep sleep.’

I immediately woke up, then I heard her voice echo from my dream ‘follow me, follow me, follow me.’ But this time she was invisible, I asked ‘but where are you and how do I follow the invisible?’ And she quickly responded ‘find me, I’m not far from the river where your spiritual lens will be put to awareness.’ I then ran as quickly as I could to the nearby river banks of The River of the Great Serpent.

As I came closer, a dark cloud emerged from the center. I heard the sound of a deep drum, it sounded as though it was filled with water inside. I could also hear human voices singing in strange harmonies, they seemed so faraway as if chanting the songs of a forgotten past.

Something else also took place, beings that had tails and some with horns on their foreheads appeared behind me. They too seemed as though they were searching for the same truths. Their eyes shined with great light.

I then saw a rainbow in unusual colors. It had two dominating colors, red and white. Its tail end connected to the dark cloud at the center of the river, while the other tail moved directly towards us. It also started to rain.

The beings that stood behind me were dancing to the sound of the drums, they moved around me and I felt their pulse encored on the ground. We all seemed to be wondering inside the rainbow, there was a great sense of blissfulness.

Lost in a stance-state, a voice spoke loudly and said ‘are you ready to travel to a world of your forefathers?’ At this point I had become weak, so I could not speak but in response I raised my hand and so did the other beings. I also noticed their bodies were now surrounded by a special kind of light, they seemed as though they were accompanied by shining stars on a winter night.

From this moment, the water opened and a black hole appeared. A strong force pulled us in and we traveled at such a high speed.

I fell into deep sleep, when I woke up I was dressed in a golden garment and I also had white beads around my wrists and legs. As I lifted up my head, I saw a huge serpent right across me, but for some reason I had to fear and our eyes connect with depth. The serpent began to speak, telling me about a secret world that I now belonged to. I was given a new name and a new song that I will chant to heal the wounded.

I again fell into deep sleep and woke up outside the riverbanks where a thanksgiving ceremony was held with healers of various types dancing and chanting around me. They too knew my song.


Nduduzo Makhathini 01.01.2020


In what appeared to be a flat deserted land, a place that seemed lifeless. I could not feel any trace or evidence of man having lived or walked on these lands.

As my spirit marveled at the emptiness and wideness of the desert, I soon began to see what appeared to be a motherlike figure. She came from an easterly direction. She had a bundle of firewood on her head and carried a child on her back.

Another vision then appeared this time from a westerly direction, it was a shadow of a young men walking and carrying a stick. Like a shepherd, he walked behind a herd of cows. He whistled melodies which their echoes I could recall from some of my dreams, perhaps from my past life.

As I listen to his beautiful music, I was taken to another place then something else started to happen. I felt water rising from underneath my feet, at some point it went beyond my knees.

Then another vision appeared, I saw humans bodies emerging from the ground, they surfaced from all directions. They also sung the shepherd’s whistle song.

Soon we were all engulfed by the sacred waters while we also kept singing. Looking around, it seemed as though we were now inside a mother’s womb. There was a sense of peace, love and security. From a distance, I could also hear the heartbeat of the cosmos. Then I was born.



Nduduzo Makhathini

I Saw an Old Man who Began Telling Tales

From deep beneath the waters, the gods started hearing so much noise and it disturbed them from their rest. The humans have invaded sacred spaces with their inventions and technologies, thus creating sounds that shocked the entire cosmos.

Some millions of years ago, these spaces were marked as sacred by our forefathers. Our ancestors had deeper connections to the cosmos, they also spoke and understood languages of the gods. As such, they left tons of open land unused. This then allowed the gods to have space for their visits. Ancient gods lived and traveled in gigantic bodies hence some rivers, mountains and forests were kept vacant and free from human usage because they were understood as places where gods lived and rested.

In particular seasons humans and all living things would visit these sacred lands and waters to receive blessings from the gods.

In recent times humans have started to invade and pollute these spaces in various ways. This has angered the gods, and some of them are now leaving us for other worlds.

But how would our world be without the presence of our gods?

Umbono (02122019)

Nduduzo Makhathini

Standing Around the Fire

It was late at night, after their evening feast. The villagers, men and women stood around a large burning fire, as it was a cold winter night. They sung beautiful songs, in deep conversations they triggered memories of the past. As the drum played, some had gone in a trance, at times even burning their hands and feet as they felt no pain. The gods had entered the place, and the grace of the old spirits was upon them.

As they danced around the fire, a childlike figure appeared from the center. She spoke with a huge voice as though speaking through a body of primitive ancestor. Her voice echoed in the mountains, caves, forests and rivers. She spoke with uttermost command and clarity.

Though speaking in a language never heard before, from underneath their feet they all understood the meanings of her words. Her eyes had a light unseen before, and anyone that looked directly into her eyes was pulled into the fire and soon vanishing. When the audiences noticed that, they began to listened with their eye closed fearful of disappearing into space.

Some panicked to a point of even attempting to escape, but her presence and that of the gods had amplified, gravity anchored their feet so deep in the ground. At some point no one could even move.

She seemed to be completely uninterrupted by all that was happening. She just looked at them then continued to speak saying ‘I’m sent by your forefathers and mothers that now live in another world.’ Then she said ‘they have found large enough lands to accommodate you all.’ She took a pause, then said ‘they have attained freedoms as great as the skies and deep as the oceans.’

After this statement, many started to sob, they cried because, over the years, they had accepted having no land, having no freedom. Freedom had become too abstract an idea for some that they believed their freedom lived on the edges of slavery. Similar to their land, they had been pushed away to live on the edges, their center had been stolen. They had tuned in to a frequency of indigence.

Some did not want to hear about their past and ancestors. Even saying they did not want to encounter a future that carried any overtones of their past. They had disconnected from heritage, and their abandoned legacies.

Sensing their fears, she then said ‘I’m now leaving to go back home, those whom have sent me are soon coming. The underworlds will soon emerge on earth. All that was buried in the past, is the future that you await.’ Then she vanished



Nduduzo Makhathini

A Seeker

As though I am a visitor in my forefathers land

My rituals are strange, they are not understood

My forefathers’ gods are unknown to man, they are unknown to their granddaughters

My freedom only comes in the night, when everyone is asleep, when no one can see me

My customs have become midnight customs, that is also if I am fortunate enough not to be disrupted by those in government uniforms


Now in the very dark I speak to my gods

I dance with the gods

I remember that I am a mystical man, I live in two worlds

I refuse to disconnect with the ‘dead’

The so called dead visit me, they speak to me, they guide me and they are my light


I am a strange man and my technologies are scary to man

My drum is too loud a truth

I am a seeker


Inkondlo (02.11.2019)

Nduduzo Makhathini

Awaiting Another Borrowed Life

In a far away place, way beyond the stars, we arrived in a land where beings walked slightly high above the ground. A tribe so technologically advanced that they each possessed several bodies. That is to say, due to the large quantities of tasks and responsibilities each of them had, over the years, they had developed the art of multiplying their own selves. At a blink of an eye, these beings could project several other bodies similar to theirs whom became responsible for all kinds of work as they wish.

Perhaps the only limitation was that, each of the projected bodies operated from the mind of their creator, thereby restricting them from any kind of independence or freedom. At night these projected bodies did not sleep but were tasked with performing dreams of their masters (the beings that had created them). In that way all the dreams of the tribe were known through songs, dance and poetic recitations. As such, the tribe always understood and were made aware of the sentiments of their ancestors, their pasts in the same way they could also foresee their futures.

This ecosystem was functional and served the tribe in meaningful ways for many years until these projected bodies were tired of being slaves to the tribe and its dreams. They too wanted to live their own life, they were tired of the many hours of hard labor, they wanted to experience sleep, they wanted to have their own dreams.

For a long period there was great tension between the tribe and their projected bodies. These moments of disagreement got characterized by a serious war. They fought to death and they all perished. The projected beings turned into shadows living in a kind of exile state having no access and will to become ancestors. To this day, they await yet another chance for a borrowed life from the superior beings.

Iphupho (07102019)

Nduduzo Makhathini

The Lost Tribes of Wamadingho

She screamed with a deep voice. She screamed from the depths of her belly, right across the river. The river was full and no one could cross. Her voice echoed in the depths of the forest, in the caves, through the mountains, to the villages and right into the people’s consciousness. For many years, there had been a storm that never ended, and as no one could cross over, the tribe had split into two.

On the one side of the river, they spoke an ancient tongue left by the ancestors of their land. This tribe also searched their archives looking for their forefathers songs that could harness and quieten the storm. While on the other side, they developed new languages, and investing on new technologies that could perhaps assist to someday cross over to the lands where their umbilical chords were buried. After many years, the tribe built a ship that someday sunk the entire tribe.

I hope someday when the storms is over, all the tribes of Wamadingho (as told in another dream) will reunite in the underworlds, where the drum plays all day and night.

Umbono 15092019

Nduduzo Makhathini

There is a Space and Time for Everything

Standing here this morning, thinking about how an echo travels. I once dreamed of this idea ‘Letters from the Underworlds’ really around the notion of an ancestor and how, without a language (which I call code), we become confined in a kind of ‘exile’ away from a part of ourselves. From these thoughts, I then questioned our ‘Modes of Communication’ centered around ideas of rituals and how how they become a key hinge towards dissolving the ‘exile’ borders from either side. A deeper context of all of this is coming with the ‘release’ of the album.

So I know that you’ve been waiting for this record to come out… I’ve also been waiting, so the thing is, if we consider an African cosmology as a point of departure for our work, or as even a frame, then we have to also acknowledge its totality and the need for a kind of synchronicity between our world and the underworlds (ancestry realms).

With this in mind, I just want to tell you that the initial echo of the ‘Letters from the Underworlds’ has reached this side of the globe in a huge way.

Yesterday I attended a meeting, and all I can say at this time is I HAVE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE regarding the release of Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds. I will perhaps share the news towards end of October, then from there the ancestors will grant us a date for the feast!!!




Nduduzo Makhathini

Shadows of the Divine

There once was a man whom had fallen asleep. After a long period of sleep, he woke in another planet. He knew that he had never been here before, neither his ancestors had spoken of such existence. The land was flat, there were no mountains or hills, there were no trees. It was a space of nothingness.

He looked around and all he saw were very tall, moving shadows of men and women. Shadows of beings that had transitioned into spirit dimensions. These beings had transcended life inside a body, they had become spirit and only their souls lived. They lived through the light and the shadows represented projections of their shared pasts.

Through movements of their shadows they told tales of their collective memories. Memories of the lives they once lived in a physical realm. Their past was a dance, a dance of yesterday.

The man continued to watch in total amazement. And though another part of his being was still puzzled by such joy situated in intangibility, he soon became hypnotized.

Then his own body disappeared too and his soul smiled at the dance of his own shadow.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Imvula: A Vision in Three Parts

[It is after a heavy rain. A big flood had destroyed their homes. Through ancient wisdom, they had all climbed up the trees during the flood.]


A huge crowd stood by the river banks. A tall man in his old age carrying a particular type of stick, stood right in front much closer to the water. He was the eldest in the village, and over the years he had lost his eye sight. Though he was blind, he was still trusted deeply by fellow villagers. He had developed the highest level of hearing, they say he could hear the voices of the gods from far away worlds. Through the floods, he was given a task by the gods to take the tribe to their new home. They all followed him, he led in faith.


I also saw a second vision. There were beings that lived underneath water. Some were people that had ‘died’ in other worlds. Some had disappeared from their families many years ago and could never be found. Back in the villages, others told tales that they had been swallowed by gigantic creatures that lived in deep waters. The underwater community told different stories about how they had come to this world. Some said they heard a song from the river and followed until they reached their ancestors in the underworlds. While some say they were born and had always lived in both worlds and between.

I also learned that, some of these beings could live both on land and in water, as old ancestors they could even fly.


Then I saw a third vision. An elderly mother appeared from the top of a mountain, she spoke in a deep voice. She was the rain goddess. Behind her stood a tribe, all dressed in white, they chanted a river song.


I then saw the initial vision, the old man danced to the rhythm of the mountain tribe. He had moved into a trance. So far away, he was the only one that could hear the voice of the rain goddess, he had their song. As the mountain tribe finished chanting, he jumped into the river and all villagers followed. They all disappeared and their story was never to be told.

Umbono 15082019

Nduduzo Makhathini

A girl that was given a magic stone

[This dream felt different, and uncommon in some way. It was unusual in that, most of what I saw had an intense deja vu feeling to it. Places looked familiar, some of the people I saw were people I know, people I currently live with and the ones that have transitioned. I also noticed that the setting looked very similar to where I was born eMbubu, in Sweetwaters eMgungundlovu. The dream it felt like a moment I was re-living, a song I’ve sung before]

It was almost at midnight, it felt as though the moon was watching us and over us. It was in winter, a fire right at the center of the kraal kept us warm but it also gave a unique kind of light. Its flames appeared like responses to our conversations, almost as though the fire itself had been listening and formed part of our conversation.

Throughout the day, we had listened to several teachers, poets, artists, musicians, dancers, poets and storytellers giving anecdotes, talking about what inspires them, what they’ve seen and the lives they’ve lived. They also, passionately, shared on their unique perspectives and approaches to life, some even demonstrated how their understanding of life informed their organic artistic outlooks.

I remember one poet sharing about her process, telling us how poetry helped her understand society and her place better. She continued to say that, it was through poetry that she understood the need to have a voice, and to then use that voice to bring about change. She spoke with great command and a particular rhythm. As she spoke, someone whispered in my ear that, as it was after midnight and part of the tradition was, a guest master artist would speak after her and offer a special blessing to one of the artists in the audience. And so it was time to listen really closely. We all set around the fire, listening attentively and all hoping we become the chosen ones.

Soon after a great talk from the poet, the master began to deliver his talk. As he started, a young girl with an extremely particular radiance, walked towards the kraal. For a moment we were all quiet, her presence was intense it filled in the entire space. She carried an unusual flute with her, and looked as though she had been accompanied by the stars. She did not look like any of us and I had also not seen her throughout during the entire programs. She had a remarkable grace.

It seemed as though the master too could not resist her charisma. As the girl walked inside the kraal, the master quickly asked, ‘who are you and how can I assist young lady?’. She responded, ‘my name is not important oh great one, I just want to be in your presence. I had traveled for many days so I could see you.’ Then she kept quiet, some older men standing behind started to mumble as they thought the young girl wasn’t as interesting as she appeared to be. Quite surprisingly, on the contrary, she didn’t look distracted by any of the comments and the ridiculing. She instead kept her eyes focused on the master.

The master then continued to speak and said, ‘I have no words of wisdom to give to you this morning but I think our ancestors have brought this young lady to us, from unknown lands, for a very special reason.’ He then said, ‘young lady since you also have no words, play us your flute.’

In no time the young girl began to play. As she was playing a huge cluster of bees appeared above us, then around master’s head. They danced for while, until they drop something on the master’s hand after which they disappeared.

Then the master said, ‘at times words are not necessary. The universe hears our intentions much deeper than what we could say or explain in words. And I say to you all, be an artist in all that you do and let it cut through in all that you are.’

‘Create a world you wish to live in and when you pick up your instrument, let it be a moment to allow your audience and all that is around you, an opportunity to enter your world. Play, dance, paint and sing gracefully.’

He then handed a magic stone to the young girl, and as he did two huge birds came and carried her to the stars. She left us all with a song.

I woke up singing

Iphupho 10082019

Nduduzo Makhathini

Echoes from the Past

I then arrived in a strangely beautiful place. The village had some of the unusually tallest trees I had ever seen, they overlooked everything. As I looked even deeper, I noticed that these trees moved in a very particular way. They danced to the rhythm of the sun.

Fascinated by such synchronicity, I stood underneath the trees for a long while. At one point I heard birds of many types sing in a kind of unison, they too sung to the sun. I tried to look for them but my eye sight could not reach them.

I then heard the sound of a drum traveling from afar. Some force pulled me towards its direction. I began to follow the sound. The closer I got to the initial sound, another sound pattern emerged as a response but sounded even further away. Of course I followed each call carefully, though note reaching its location, until the next idea emerged.

I was caught in this experience for several days but not reaching the musicians that performed this incredible music. The more I heard these sounds, my heart pumped even faster. From deep within, my anticipation grew and I became filled with hope that I would soon reach the source of all this beauty. Eventually, my feet got tired and I could no longer walk around the village. I fell on the ground, it seemed as though all the trees around me had eyes and they were looking at me with empathy.

I could not keep my eyes open anymore, the sun shined through the trees. With my eyes closed and still hearing this great music, I imagined what each musician, their drums and the surroundings may have looked like. I soon became lost in a beautiful dream.

In a dream my guide then told me that, the sounds I was hearing had nothing to do with an actual drum, musician, birds or even a particular place in this universe. He continued to say, these sounds came from the gods whom lived here millions of years ago. Since they left, all that lives in this village take turns in singing and projecting their songs in their memory. In closing he also said, the only way to witness these sounds closely is through transcending the material world into the planets of the gods.

Then I woke up and realized I had fallen off my bed. To this very moment I’m still hearing the echoes of the drums.

Iphupho 02082019

Nduduzo Makhathini

Isiguqo: Isonto Lezayoni

These sessions were some of the best in my ‘church days’. You see, these churches didn’t speak about material things, success in materialistic forms, it didn’t matter how much money you had or not had.

Instead the services were concerned with creating and facilitating passageways/bridges with unseen realms of our being and consciousness. We were involved in processes of seeking particular kinds of alignments and synchronicities with surroundings, family, community and deeper contacts between man, their gods and ancestors. We were seeking a magic world.

The belief was, if one attains some connection with the spiritual dimensions, the physical dimensions would project forms on manifestations at a material level. That is to say that, if one is in tune with the divine, a universal harmony comes forth in all aspects of their lives.

Now, let me explain how I was made to understand all of this ‘technology’ through my grandma’s teachings. Isiguqo is a prayer meeting/ritual in the Zionist church that seek affinities with spirit dimensions. This type of ceremony is commonly held at the top of a hill, this is due to our forefathers beliefs in the sacredness and symbolism of such spaces. I attended a lot of these in my upbringing.

In actual fact, these became my initial encounters of trance, miracle making, magic and witnessing prophecies that frequently resulted to healing of diverse illnesses and health/psychological conditions. Most of which was practiced through spiritual means, with an exception of water as a healing tool and symbol from time to time. People would bring water containers with the hope that water has memory to code healing energy, they would then use this water for a range of functions.

Of course my favorite part of isiguqo was a performance of iskhalanga, that is when a magic world would open. Iskhalanga is a kind of spiral and cyclical ritual dance whereby the dance circulates around a kind of center. This dance is often accompanied by strong hand clapping (sometimes with a drum) and a song that is sung by the entire congregation. The song often emerges from composed materials, to multiple variations, improvisations and counterpoint, until it blossom and dissolves to a completely new piece of music.

It is in these moments, of taping into a kind of new-unknown that an invisible and body-less spirit enters the room. It is believed that this spirit enters from the center of dance circle (iskhalanga). During this grace period, whomsoever that is in need of any type of healing is unconsciously pulled to the center by some sort of magnetic fields. After which a prophet, the chosen one (osebenza ngesithunywa) puts her/his hands over their head. As soon as the two connect spiritually, messages and texts are sent through the prophet and he/she begins to prophesy emanating to a healing process.

Furthermore, the potency of this energy portal and center where isithunywa channels all these messages through a prophet, is believed to inspire and dictates the flow of rhythm, mood and pace of iskhalanga and the ritual at large. When the spirit is high the pace goes faster making it slightly more complex for anyone outside the dance to enter the circle. It requires a deep alertness, a submission to the spirit world to find alignment with the physical realm and the greater rhythm of life.

It is an entering to a universal synchronicity, forming a type of unison with the music of the spheres. It is here that, the margins between the two worlds (seen and unseen) are temporarily dissolved, the walls between body and soul collapse into a totality, a kind one oneness and a trance experience.

During iskhalanga the body feels so light, traveling even faster and at a deeper level it becomes impossible to even feel any pain especially underneath the feet as the practice is done barefoot. It becomes almost as if the ground itself embellishes our very song.

From a young age, experiencing such power, it became clear what the purpose of music and dance should be throughout my life. It is this kind of transcendence that cultivated such deep belief in sound. I come to understand music, sound, dance and rituals in this mode.

To this day I constantly search for these connections in my practice as a healer/improvisor. I am looking for iskhalanga of the soul, a magic world.

Reflections 15072019

Nduduzo Makhathini


She ululated from the top of the mountain. Hidden in the clouds that had come so close to the ground, no one could see her face. Though her words were as clear as light, a human need to see only with the naked eye blinded their sensitivity to sound and words.

Whilst she spoke news from the gods, in complete blasphemy some of the villagers even said, we cannot listen to those who are not willing to show their faces to us. The voice continued to speak and said very loudly, we are like nomads our pilgrimage never reaches no end, I say unto you, it is time to move to another world. I invite you to a magic world.

While the villagers ignored her voice, something interesting started to take place. Animals of many kinds seemed to hear and understand her voice, they responded in joyful sounds and gravitated towards the direction of her voice. Even the children of the village began to walk towards the mountain while the elders carried on with their daily routines.

She again continued to speak and said I am sent by your gods, they have prepared a place for you all, it is a safe place, come with me. After her last word, all children and animals of various kinds that had listened disappeared into the clouds and were transported to a magic world.

We are the generation that got left behind, and another voice is calling once again.

Iphupho 12072019

Nduduzo Makhathini


There was a time when divinities used to visit planets in their physical bodies. Part of these visits were to explore answers to some of humans kind’s deepest questions. When these wise ones visited they would choose, open spaces. These were lands where no human lived, the big gods had dedicated these spaces to themselves and the greater network of divinities. Some of the signifies and characteristics for these lands in planet earth would be for instance, weather conditions that are unbearable to human bodies, less fertile grounds among others.

Healers would travel to these sacred lands to pass on various messages and questions that humans had, but they too did not live here for longer periods. The wise ones, the divinities would then share their wisdom, spending time unpacking multiple perspectives and truths about life at times drawing examples from what was taking place in other realms and planets as anecdotes for planet earth. There are the ones that told us about the existence of other worlds. They were beings of the highest wisdom. It would be then the duty of the healers to listen as intense as possible to these news, and send back messages to the people in the most accurate ways.

After thousands of years being a healer myself but not invited to the conference of the wise ones, I eventually got an invitation through a series of dreams. In some dreams I was shown the lands of the big gods and others I saw their images, I heard their big voices. Soon I traveled with a group of healers, we traveled in ships faster than the speed of light. As we arrived, one of the senior divinities said to me, we have finally heard your drum and now it is your time to ask your deepest question.

After thinking for a long time, I then asked, what is life’s greatest question? He said all questions are great, and enquiry is an extremely potent tool for navigating life but once all questions have been answered they no longer exist as questions. So the greatest questions are the ones that do not have answers yet.

He continued and said, it is similar to death. It is a kind of question but the only way to answer is to die. Perhaps similar to music, that perceives silence as the greatest music. So it is my advice to you that you should immense yourself so deep in the search, in the question such that you forget, and put less attention to finding of any kind but that of yourself in the question itself.

The process of life itself is the truth of beauty and your greatest goal should be, I believe, to become a seeker and not gravitating towards reaching conclusions but more questions.

As he finished speaking, I heard our ship horn blast and it was time to leave.


Nduduzo Makhathini


The mood felt similar to that of December holidays back home in Pietermariztburg. I was taken back to my upbringing. But quite surprisingly, in these childhood moments, there were musicians that I’m currently working and collaborating with now. It felt as though we all waited there with anticipation for all our relatives that would be visiting from afar. Though we knew that uGogo Alphinah had now transitioned, she was part of the gathering and as usual she led us in prayer. I remember her quoting her usual prayer phrase ‘Simakade, siyazibeka kuwe, nezidalwa zonke ezisemagumbini amane omhlaba…’

After she finished praying she disappeared into the sky. From that point the atmosphere changed quite drastically. The mood had evolved from the busyness of the township, sounds of cars, people talking and loud sound systems, we started becoming more aware of the natural sounds, a deeper cosmic music. I recall a group of musicians that stood there with me making comments about how they also felt as though their hearing sensibilities had been heightened.

As we wondered, another layer of awareness emerged. The sky displayed various types of illustrations (similar to the work of Mzwandile Buthelezi) of gigantic and abstract beings we had never seen before, some had four legs, some three eyes. The view was profoundly beautiful and colorful. Some of the dominating colors were red, black, yellow and others.

Still taken by this beauty we all took out our modern day gadgets (cellphones, cameras) trying to capture these moments. To our astonishment, we were taken back to the human made noises and cloudy sky of this world. It felt as though we were being punished for not being able immense ourselves in such a sincere moment.

Iphupho 13062019

Nduduzo Makhathini

The Three Spirits that Descended: Exploring Piano Approaches

One day, when our ancestors first heard the piano in their dreams, before it was even made, they loved it so much that a huge conference was held somewhere beneath the earth. The meeting was, among other things, to discuss what spirits would occupy the various ranges and registers of this huge instrument and for what purpose[s].

The elderly men said, they wanted to occupy the lower register. They felt that in this way they would be sitting closer to the doors of all musical possibilities. And thus becoming the gate way to all knowledge and all creation would named after them to reclaim their immortality. As they wished all was given. Melodies and chords were named after them, all sounds were rooted in them. These men spoke in low frequency voices, they had less to say and often uttered one word at a time.

Then the mothers said, they wanted to occupy the middle range, as they believed that it was a space of all inspiration. Their wish was granted, they became the heart and soul of all music and a bridge that shaped sounds before, now and future sounds. They provided all music with a gift of infinite harmonic possibilities. These mothers sang in multiple voices, through their harmony, music found the warmth of a home and mysteries of tomorrow.

Finally, the children then said, they wanted to occupy the upper register as a space of excitement and exploration. Their wish was permitted and the upper register became a safe space where all children lived and played day in, and day out. Their music was an echo from the teachings of yesterday, the teachings elders. They became an extension of a mother.

Revelations (31052019)

Nduduzo Makhathini

A Glimpse of Freedom

Forgetting has caused us pain, it has divided us and robbed us of our collective memory. We are now scattered in foreign lands, and even in the lands of our ancestors we have become visitors. In our forgetfulness we have lost that which make, define and unite us.

The past that we hate so much has stolen evocations of our hijacked futures. We suffer a history of stolen years and a future of ‘borrowed’ years. We are born within histories that have reduced us to moving images of our unrealized potentials of self. Glimpses of our freedoms resides in our rituals, art, dreams and prayers, through which we are able to reconnect with our inner essence but this too is temporary. Can our freedom go beyond song, that moment of singing, of drumming and prayer? Perhaps our very songs will someday transform our realities in this strange world.

The memories we have lost, are memories of tomorrow.

Imicabango 24.05.2019

Nduduzo Makhathini

A Love Dance in the Key of Africa

They had been walking together long enough such that their pulse unified. In unison, they had spoken about everything they have ever thought of, wondered about and done under the sun. They spoke about their dreams, fears, aspirations and visions. Eventually they became quite, they had no words, they had said everything. In silence, their thoughts were quietened. For the first time, they felt a deep awareness of the sounds and rhythms of their feet, the beating of their hearts. They danced to the rhythm of the earth. Through their feet they heard the forgotten songs of their forefathers.

They had become profoundly in tune with each other and their surroundings. They began to walk with their eyes closed even through the deepest forests. They had learned to open the eyes of their hearts. The light shined over them, nature whispered love songs to their hearts. 

In their synchronicity a third being emerged, it was a projection of their oneness, a projection of their fondness and a hologram of their freedom. Trinity became a symbol of their love. 

Indatshana 25052019

Nduduzo Makhathini

Abantwana Basekukhanyeni (Children of Light)

After being carried by a bird over many lands, seas and sky[s], our pilgrimage had led us to this tranquil space. As we arrived, it looked and felt as though it had been raining, the soil sung with a great aroma. In harmony the trees lived while the rivers and streams pledged evolving melodic motifs telling stories of tomorrow. From a distance we heard the overtones of the rainbow. The mountains echoed the invisible histories of our people.

This was no ordinary day in a special place. Unlike the many years of searching, questioning and seeking, instead in effortless ways this day felt fulfilling for both my guide and I. We sat for hours under a tree where the magic bird had left us. It felt as though words were not necessary in these moments, even movement was suspended. In stillness, we had fully become aware of each other’s presence even in intense silence.

At sunset we advanced towards the nearest village where we would spend the next couple of moons with the wise ones and the elders of the village. Before we could arrive, two wooden gates appeared ahead of us and as we came closer the one on the right slowly opened, and immediately after we had walked in, it closed behind us.

Being inside the gate was being in another planet, everything changed to an uncommon vibration. It was dark, cold, and a little windy. I looked at the sky, it appeared to be much closer than I had seen and experienced anywhere before. It seemed as though it was filled with some kind of liquid forms. As I looked even deeper into the sky, I began to see what appeared to be like unborn babies type of figures that moved similar to a fetus inside the womb, their movement produced a musical sound.

Still marveled at what I was seeing and hearing, a whilst-like voice spoke, after which my guide (whom spoke all whistle languages including ‘umlozi’ and other complex languages of the birds) translated what was being said. He mentioned something about rebirth, but my attention was still drawn to mystical nature of the place.

Soon after, a child dressed in a grey linen garment walked towards us from an easterly direction, accompanied by a massive white cloud right above her head. She spoke in a gentle voice and said; ‘Welcome to the land of eternal youth, this gift was given to us by our ancestors, it allows us to be in touch with all things seen and unseen, known and unknown, and part of our mission is to the pass gift to all seekers of truth.’ She then held my hand and I became a child too.

My guide then spoke to me in a whistling tongue (this time I understood every note): ‘My felicitations to you. You have now graduated to being a mystic, all your senses are now heightened, there shall be no need for my guidance anymore, from today follow your intuition and the light shall follow you always.’ Then he vanished.

Umbono (COL21052019)

Nduduzo Makhathini

The Invention of Ancient Technology

I had been traveling for a long period of time looking for the wise one who knew everything about human evolution. After several years I reached his-her shrine, he-she spoke with his-her back to the audience. I was told that no man had ever seen his-her face. He-she said;

Before the technology of telepathy, dreams, visions, songs, prayers, meditation and even death, humans used to travel between planets in their physical bodies. These beings were gifted with light bodies and could travel at significantly high speeds. Some could even fly as they had wings, but most beings traveled using a web of ropes that formed an organized network connecting all planets above and below. One day after humans had fallen asleep for the first time and not traveled for several days, the gods became angry and cut all the ropes that connected the planets.

Eventually, when the humans woke up they discovered that all ropes were cut and those that had wings could no longer fly. Since humans had, communities, families and friends across planets that they needed to communicate with, the decision made by the gods resulted in a lot of sadness as humans could no longer transmit messages between planets. After a long meeting between the gods of all planets, it was declared to humans that new forms of technologies were invented to assist them communicate across planets, space and time. Humans from all over became once again optimistic and excited about life and this message from the big gods, they celebrated over several days of sleeplessness. The gods further declared that due of humans’ laziness, they were no longer allowed to travel between planets in their physical bodies but through telepathy, dreams, visions, songs, prayer and death of the body.

Personal communication with teachers from another time: Dream Code 16052019

Nduduzo Makhathini

Songs that Traveled

These beings had massive voices, when they sung their songs traveled lots of miles to far away places. They projected certain songs to nearby villages, sometimes over the sea, through the sky and even deep underground. The wise ones say, each of these beings could sing up to twelve vocal parts simultaneously, with each composition lasting over a day or two in length. 

In those days, all humans knew the science of songs, some spoke of melodies that were stored in caves, forests, mountains and rivers. We were also told that, some of these songs had traveled from unknown places over thousands of years to supplement planet earth with diverse types of energy fields. Over the years, these ancient beings had developed various systems for storage such as digital archives and other energy libraries, at any given moment these beings were able to allow these songs to perform in public ceremonies, celebrations and rituals through advance song projection systems. 

Other special songs such as healing songs, rain songs amongst others were sung by chosen singers. These chosen beings were believed not to have been born off the human race, but were thought of as tangible manifestations of songs themselves, they embodied the spirits of the great gods. These beings never ate any food and were never involved in any human activities or needs, they only emerged to sing and when a given piece of music was completed, they would dissolve into water and eventually disappear. 

Umbono 02.05.2019

Nduduzo Makhathini 

Liturgical Means of Learning: uKhuluma Nazo

The language of the people in the village was different, they viewed the world of gifts from a specific set of hermeneutic lens. I recall them saying: ‘Lensizwa yasixexebula isiginci engathi yasilalela emathuneni.’ They were obviously referring to another register of understanding knowledge dissemination that involves metaphysical passages.

From a young age, we got acquainted with very particular and (in retrospect) alternative and unique processes of ‘learning’ a musical instrument. We were told that all great musicians, magicians and artists were special beings, whom were chosen by the ancestors that had possessed similar talents and gifts before them. We were also informed that, though these beings (as ancestors), no longer lived in physical bodies, they were still able to communicate with living beings and through those means, were able to pass on their gifts to the living.

Moreover, in cases where one was the chosen one, he/she used be directed through a series dreams and visions to visit a particular ancestor’s tomb for an overnight ritual (sometimes up to three days). The ritual would be accompanied by sacrifices, chanting and singing after which one would get tired and at a particular point fall asleep with their instruments in their hands. We were also told that, in their sleep (ubu’thongo) their physical bodies would play all the repertoires channeled from the ancestry realms on a chosen instrument. It is believed that, it is also in this way that technical abilities and prowess[ness] in playing an instrument would be ‘coded’ from ancestral memory to their muscles and other dimensions of their memory.

Sometimes, for instance if the candidate had to become a maskanda guitarist, they’ll wake up day after the ritual with a particular tuning on their guitar that they would use their entire lives. In some rare cases, with a missing string and they would be given their gift in these kinds of ways which they would embrace and not alter moving forward. This also became a way of immortalizing an ancestor and their specific cultural practices.

The next day, through another ritual, they would be reincorporated back into the dimensions of the living. Following that would then be their inaugural performance where it would be actually their first time playing that particular instrument in their conscious modes. Part of the ceremony would be dedicate to storytelling, this part included the candidate sharing on his experiences in the ancestry realm. Those who spent a bit more time would even talk about details of certain ancestors passing regards and messages to some members of the family that were still living.

This outlook suggests that, there is a kind transcendence that overlap between our dream-state (trance-state) and our awake[ness]. Therefore, I further propose that these communication corridors with our ancestors be viewed as; some sort of technological means for interpreting texts from outer space[s] and embodiments of potential overlaps between these two realms of consciousness. This is especially urgent in an African context, where our cosmological window already views these dimensions as being intertwined.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Conversations with the Unseen: Them Too Need our Light

Three candles surfaced from the earth, two white ones and one red. Behind me a voice spoke and said ‘light them up, then step back to your position and don’t look behind you.’ I did as instructed.

Then the voice spoke again ‘Do you ever wonder that, we too need your light? We are also vulnerable beings in the spirit realm and we are also searching.’ I responded in fear ‘But I don’t even see you, how would I begin to imagine what you need.’ The voice then responded ‘That’s exactly how you’ve been failing us on this side. You neglect seeing in complete ways, because you believe in seeing only through your eyes. Now seek me within your heart and I shall appear.’

As I was still processing what was being said, I began to see multiple projections of myself all around, they appeared as though each represented one of the seven stages of my life’s journey. Some exhibited moments in my life as a child (playfulness), as an adult (searching)and some projected towards the future (blissfulness).

Then in unison they all pronounced ‘I have not gotten home yet, there is a river I need to cross, each time I’ve tried I have gotten tired and in that moment I have always found myself back by the river banks. It’s been many years and I have seen other spirits crossover but a kind of light shine over them.’

As I listened deeper, I noticed that twenty one candles had surfaced from the ground all around me and all in various colors. The voice spoke again, this time from a distance, and said ‘All of these stand for the ones that seek your light.’

Iphupho 07042019

Nduduzo Makhathini

From Another Time

It once was known to man that ‘magic’ was an extension of being. From realms of potentially ideas were verbalized, chanted, vocalized and eventually transformed and realized through layers of manifestations in physical forms.

The beautiful landscapes, mountains, rivers and valleys seen around us were once songs in someone’s imagination. Some songs presented themselves as suites over several days of meditations and some a single movement or phrase through a deep breath, yet each man was content with the resulting creation. All man’s thoughts collectively formed part of a larger universal tonality.

Someday soon humans shall remember a song that created the pyramids and will regain access to the divine properties and poetics of co-creation.


Nduduzo Makhathini



The soil had been kind to us for many centuries, giving birth to numerous kinds of crops; vegetables and fruits of all kinds. In the summers, the our fields were blessed with wonderful rains. Over the years, the children of this village had developed large repertoires of games and songs associated with these marvelous rains.

Until one evening, after the oldest mother of the village Mawiri had been sick for a long period, she received a dream. In this long dream she was told by the wise ones that, due to ignorance of our tribe and our leaders the village was going to experience a permanent drought. The wise ones continued to say that, the ancestors were unhappy and have cursed our land and its inhabitants for having not sung their rain song in decades.

Mawiri woke up at midnight and told her grandsons to hurry to the king’s palace and inform his royalty that there was an urgent message from the worlds of the ancestors. The boys did as told, and soon the king had brought the entire village to to Mawiri’s homestead.

As expected Mawiri, in her usual calmness, told the dream in detail after which she closed her eyes and died. Everyone began to mourn, both because Mawiri was an important member of our village, and she had not yet given her words of wisdom on this problem. The king then stood up as he we was still trembling, he asked ‘does any of you remember our ancestors’ rain song?’

No one responded… ‬

Iphupho 01042019

Nduduzo Makhathini

And I woke up thinking, it is our own dream, and I’m sure the story continues but even in our sleep/dreams our bodies become fearful and wake us up… Our dreams need to filter into our awaken[ness] to compensate for these fears, a kind of confrontation with these parallel worlds.


Realms of Potentiality (Ukwendlalwa Kwetafula)

Then he said, ‘put your arm deep into the water, and you shall find a cryptogram to your destiny’ afterwards he vanish into the ocean.

In my hand I held a precious stone, it suggested various colors such as blue and very subtle grayish striped patterns around it. The more I held the stone, the more it revealed new visions. In this stone, I also saw a vision of an elderly woman in a walking-stick. She walked the opposite direction to my view, but quite surprisingly came closer and closer as the intensity of my awareness sharpened.

I then saw birds of many kinds, floating above the sea level. One of them whistled the sounds of tomorrow.

Umbono: 26032019

Nduduzo Makhathini

Forgotten Songs

Then a voice came forth from deep underground. It spoke in an unfamiliar tongue, perhaps something preceding human language. Each word resonated from my feet, I began hearing not only through my ears but my entire being. It echoed as though it was immortalizing its own self. I listened deeper, becoming aware of every reflection and space in between.

As I wondered about what was being said, I began to gather meaning, not through an understanding of words, but a kind of sonic memory opened. It felt as though my inner being had just awakened, and I was in contact with deeper avenues of self.

The voice said: ‘All you humans have refused for a long time to come back home.’ Then kept quiet. I stood still, and after sometime it asked: ‘Do you believe in the spirit of freedom?’ Before I could answer, it said: ‘Go and tell your people that, there is no need to suffer in this world, your forefathers have left the gates wide open.’ Then another pause. ‘Let everyone being sing their way back home.’

Then the voice dissolved back into the ground.


Nduduzo Makhathini

22 March 2019

Iculo Elisha

They say after dancing for several days, the sun began to smile and later their dance was projected in the face of the moon. In a trance-state, they hit the ground intensely but their feet would not feel no pain. The echoes of their voices traveled to dimensions unseen. Their purpose had reached profound synchronicities with the heart of the cosmos.

They remembered the song of the gods.

Indatshana (told by the unseen)

Nduduzo Makhathini

Searching for Home

After walking a long distance through the forest he still could not find home. His body was becoming weak as he had not eaten or had anything to drink in days. He was starting to loose hope and believing that his entire displacement came as a result of fate.

As thoughts ran through his mind, a voice said to him: ‘look behind you, you are so deep in thoughts that you even went past the very home you have been searching for’ then the voice vanished. Still amazed at what he just heard, he looked back and indeed saw a beautiful house with golden gates. His heart was filled with joy.

He went towards the gates, and as he got closer the gates opened. He walked towards the door but fell right outside as he was approaching. He then began to dream, in his dream he had entered the door.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Routines and Rituals (Reflecting on my recent travels)

There are certain things that we take lightly about traveling ‘abroad’ that often go against our daily routines/rituals. Today I want to quickly reflect on a recent experience that I had.

Naturally, there is only so much one thinks of when they visit a country with a unique time zone to that of their country of birth. Regularly, we become more concerned about the weather, the food, the people and other more obvious things. For instance, when I knew that I would be traveling to the US, I made sure that I pack all the warm clothes in my bag since it is winter time this side, but those were just about all my considerations.

Now through my experience, I realize that the most important thing I had forgotten to do was to send a message/text to the ‘underworlds’ informing them about the difference in time zones. Naturally, I alerted them about the trip, since I needed their blessings and light. But did not go into detail about our communication times and schedules as marked in the original timetable. On a normal day at home, I communicate with them in two separate modalities and times. The first one being, chants and prayers (sometimes including music), this often takes place during the day. It also involves more of a visualization of their presence than a direct contact. While the second mode involves dreams, often taking place in my sleep (another place) or when my body is not active, meaning my mind too is resting. The later does not require any reasoning from the mind, whereas the former does and entirely relies on past experience, knowledge, logic and such. The former is totally aware of the physical surroundings, the later is not but it projects a new surrounding/reality.

The time-space concepts are also different in these two modalities. It’s important to also note that, on the one hand, awake-ness completely shuts down our ‘birds eye view’, this is to say we can only see what surrounds us. On the other hand, and contrary to awake-ness, deep sleep (ubu’thongo) allows multiple views of self. In a dream we see our surroundings and ourselves within those surroundings.

Let me get back to what I experienced yesterday. It so happened that the great ones from the ‘underworlds’ had visited with an important and urgent message to send through me. Upon their arrival they found the body awake, filled with limited reasoning of man and perhaps in that way less receptive. The mind and the body did not want to give in to the moment and what was being said. There arose tensions between the mind and the technologies of receiving from outer space.

This constant conflict began to generate a rather strange and unfamiliar feeling. At the same time the only way the mind could read these signals was ‘I am falling asleep’ but it was actually something else that I have never felt before. In retrospect, I think they (the ancestors) just wanted my mind to shut down so I could be more receptive to their message but I didn’t quite get it in that moment. I also admit that as humans we are used to preparing for these things. The damage is to an extent that we have developed a number of routines that act as bridges from ‘awake-ness’ to a ‘dream-state’. For instance, we need to wear pyjamas, we need a bed and blankets, we need to close our eyes, and we need to be in particular position to fall asleep and dream. In short this process is not instant but requires a certain amount of negotiation between the two realms of our consciousness, with the body being the least  natural party in the negotiation game.

In that moment of confusion and refusal to fall asleep. With a nacked eye, I started seeing ‘beings’ that were not necessarily ‘there’ in terms of what that means for a human experience but nonetheless these beings demanded and grabbed my attention. They even walked through objects and other people that were in the building with me. It became a complete juxtaposition of two worlds both happening in real-time. It got so busy and loud that a glimpse of that experience shoot me right into deep sleep. Through a minute of sleep and experiencing what could be referred to as hypnagogic jerks, and that is when a friend woke me up to go outside for some fresh air.


One needs to fully acknowledge the co-existence and parallelism of these two worlds and perhaps more as our consciousness widens. If our communication with the ‘underworlds’ is a type of technology (which it is according to my experience of it), then we need to be more cognizant of the kinds of coding and programming that should be implemented prior a change in time zones. We need a form of text that will signal a kind of ‘roaming status’ so to speak, as a neccesity for a coordinated communication to the underworlds.

Another option is to completely break away and remove the walls that exist between the two realms so that the communication and overlaps are encouraged rather then suppressed and further resisted. But this might also mean some level of danger for this ‘world’, for instance an uncommunicated ancestral visit that puts one to an instant sleep mode whilst driving. This example might result into two things; firstly an accident and secondly a possibility to allow the ancestor to drive your car. Well check it out!!!


Nduduzo Makhathini

The Ones that Wished to See the Gods: Okusemfihlakalweni

It was known among the villagers that gods walked around at night when all the people were sleeping. This ideology informed for instance how people behaved at night to how they even built their homesteads. Most of them left plenty open land in between their homes due to a belief that their gods were huge and needed enough space to walk during their visits. Some made offerings, living outside their homes drinks and food overnight to be eaten by these gods. Some had objects at the borders of their homes as symbols of respect to the gods.

While more curiosity grew within the younger folks of the village, the older generation had no ambitions of seeing the gods since they were content with the belief that ‘the gods were only seen through their works and not in their physical bodies’. Some elderly women believed that any person that sees a god would instantly loose their eye sight.

On certain evenings, younger folks would stayed up, hiding in the nearby forests hoping that at midnight they will see the gods. But even they would eventually fall asleep, only seeing the gods in their dreams and sometimes partially during certain sacred rituals when they transported into a state of trance.

The people that knew more about the gods were healers. These men and women formed part of a higher hierarchy in the community. They were even trusted by the kings and queens for being a channel of communication between humans and their gods. Some of them shared testimonies about how certain gods looked, spoke and even walked like. Among other common themes, was a belief that the gods were tall, some with three eyes, some with multiple arms and often their feet did not touch the ground.

As the need to see the gods grew in the village, a meeting was called between all kinds of healers, diviners, poets, musicians and thinkers to create a strategy for all people to see the gods. The planning took several years on the nearby mountain known as The Mountain of the Old God. People often visited this mountain to speak to their ancestors that were perhaps not seen in dreams. The belief was that every ancestor that has not finished climbing this mountain after their transitioning would not appear in dreams. Most of the people would then climb on behalf of an ancestor.

One day the king sent out message to the people that the healers were coming back to the village and a welcoming ritual must be prepared. As expected a large crowd of people was seen coming towards the village. Some healers were carrying newborn babies, some young children could walk for themselves. A group of drummers played behind the crowd. It was indeed a beautiful view.

The news were delivered to the villagers that at midnight the gods will visit and so everyone stayed awake celebrating what would be a groundbreaking moment. There were all types of drinks and food being served. The musicians played enchanting songs, some of which were new given to them by the ancestors during their visit at The Mountain of the Old God.

At midnight a big sound was heard, it sounded like nothing ever heard in human history before. In that moment a rainbow-like tunnel of bright light appeared right above their heads. Soon everyone disappeared into the tunnel and the entire village transformed into a beautiful river of eternity.

Umbono 01.01.2019

Nduduzo Makhathini

Itshe Lezibankwa (The Land of Lizards)

Then I arrived in a village built over the stone of miracles. In this village all types of food and herbs grew over night and no man had to work or plant but everything grew organically from the ground. Their waters had a healing force, curing all types of diseases. People slept under the trees and never had to build any shelter.

There were two tribes that lived in this village, the dark skinned (also known as the people of song) and the light skinned (also known as the foreign people). The dark skinned lived on top of the rocks and had been fighting all types of lizards, mostly the crocodiles for thousands of years so I was told. The wise ones believed that the crocodiles were the first inhabitants of these precious stones. The light skinned tribe spoke a unique language and they were seldom seen because they lived inside the stones with the lizards.

On the day I arrived, the great king of the dark skinned people had just killed a huge crocodile. I was also told that the dark skinned people used crocodile oil to burn as sacrifice to their ancestors. Though this practice was perceived by the light skinned people as a bad omen, since the great god of the lizards would come out later in the day to pay revenge.

Over the years the dark skinned people had been divided into two groups, the one group followed the customs of the ancient people and those of the king. The other group had been ‘saved’ meaning they subscribed to the foreign cultures of the light skinned people.

In preparation for the great god of the lizards’ revenge, the light people came out of the stones to offer a special drink to the ‘saved’. I was told that this drink protected them from being killed by the great god of the lizards.

In the evening, as expected the great god of the lizards came out. The ‘unsaved’ dark skinned people went across the river of healing waters where they began to sing their songs, a deep vibration was felt in the entire village as they started dancing.

Then I woke up singing the song of the dark skinned.

Iphupho 30. 12. 2018

Nduduzo Makhathini


Fascinated by the kinds of totalities embedded in African indigenous languages and words, for several years I have ventured on a pilgrimage to find alternative vocabularies for the work that one is involved in. Quite recently, I have found a word for the genre of work/music I partake in and co-create, together with the work I have been tasked to do by my ancestors.

Here are some key indicators to the genre of work I’m involved in; ritualistic in nature, strong healing properties, power to produce meaning[s] through divination, links to outer-space and capacity to evoke the spirit of an ancestor.

All the above signifiers and more are captured in this hybrid Zulu word ‘ingoma-sbhulo’. On the one hand, Ingoma is a word used in multiple contexts ranging from song, healing, a ritual to a drum. On the other hand, ukubhula (throwing of bones) is a process of diving. It is an ancient technology that uses objects to unpack meaning[s].

I believe that somehow if our genres of work like our mountains and rivers are named in more deliberate ways, it channels are particular energy to the work.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Imihlaba Isondelene: Time-Space Overlaps

An ancestor had been traveling through the sky over her village, when she suddenly heard a melody. Those who knew her before habitually told her great grandchildren about her love for the drum. 

Moved by the sound of the drum, she came closer. A group of drummers and singers had been playing for over seven days without rest. The space was charged with ‘ase’, miracles were witnessed. The blind started to see, the sick were healed.

The ancestor joined the ritual in dance and song until everyone had gone. Soon after her physical body emerged, looking the same as she did before her departure. She was amazed at what had just happened as she had never been inside a body for decades. 

There were also various types of traditional beers left by the elders after the performance ritual. She began to indulge in the drinks until she eventually got tired and fell asleep. 

The next morning the entire village came around her body deeply astounded. When she heard their voices she woke up and her body vanished. 


Nduduzo Makhathini 


Is it not astounding that the very water that carries a flood charged with aggressiveness and disruptiveness removing people’s homes and taking lives, can also be still as a space for healing and for humans to drink from.

There is also something to be said about the profound ways in which water presents the idea of harmony and unity. Water is never separated even as it meanders and branches between mountains, the intention is always to find a larger community.

It is also delightful to note how water travels for miles only to fulfill the needs of others, to give to the ones who are thirsty.

Water’s willingness to contribute and dissolve into the totality of things is intrinsically inspiring. Perhaps water knows something we do not know about the cyclical nature of existence, the beginning is also the end.


Nduduzo Makhathini

The Process

The kinds of love and trust required to be an improviser are immeasurable. Just to think that even though some of what we do is based on memory, nostalgia and our past experiences – most of it lives in a realm of the nameless, the undefined, the timeless, the unknown. While the true meaning of an improvisation is often defined by a single choice, that one note that comes at the end of a phrase. In this way, improvisation can be thought  of as a pilgrimage from the known through the liminality stage, towards a new mode of knowing. It is a constant falling in love with unknown destinations, and each time is new.

Love and Light

Nduduzo Makhathini

A Recalled Dream from Another Time

We all came, sat around the fire. As part of our evening rituals, uGogo was meant to tell a story. But this time she kept quiet, she looked directly to the center of the fire as though in an intense conversation with the unseen. Soon and in an unexpected manner, an eccentric being emerged from the fire. It had a face of a mother, multiple arms and legs. It looked me directly in the eye. I became nervous and in that moment felt a part of me getting drawn into its deep presence. I was instantly taken to another place.

In this place the people were different, they were free and told stories I have not heard. They spoke simultaneously in multiple tongues, but seemed to understand one another and I understood them too. They operated in a unique time zone and frequency. I wanted to stay here, I wanted to learn from them.

As I opened my eyes, uGogo had me in her warm arms and said ‘that was the end of the story little child’.

Then I wondered; ‘have I not moved from here the entire time, was the story told in total silence, who was the being in the fire, did everyone see her and where are all the other people?’ Though these were thoughts going through my mind, quite surprisingly, in response uGogo said; ‘yebo mntan’omntanami kunjaloke emhlabeni, okuningi kusemfihlakalweni…’

Nduduzo Makhathini


Sketches of a Dream: Isambulo

Dreamt of a traditional ancestral ritual (umsebenzi). It took place in what seemed like a village I’ve been to in KwaZulu Natal. In the dream I saw a lot of people/musicians that have left. They were all dressed in some type of space costumes, similar to those of Ra’s Arkestra.

As I recall the different scenes in the dream this morning, I’m also thinking of Bab’uSun Ra’s ‘claim’ that he was not from this planet, perhaps many of us are visitors indeed.

Isambulo (28.10.2018)

Nduduzo Makhathini


Upon reflecting on my own practices as a healer and improviser, it becomes evident that most of what transpires in the course of improvising/divining could be thought of as layers of manifestations. A series of occurrences within which, based on our willingness to be totally present, it becomes possible to realize that which resides in the state of potentiality. This is to say that, in essence what gets projected are sonic representations of the worlds we dream of (similar to prayer) and in this process one becomes an essential contributor to the kinds of ecosystems responsible for our immediate realities.

Thoughts (20 October 2018)

Nduduzo Makhathini

Alertness as a Master-key

A voice asked: ‘How far do we still have to go?’ Another responded: ‘I’ve been traveling for centuries, and always asked myself that same question. Over the years, I’ve begun to believe that the concept of one arriving at a destination is an illusion. I think even when one reaches a particular destination, another emerges ahead of them…’ In that moment a bird flew above their heads and said: ‘If you had paid enough attention to yourselves, both of you would have realized that you have not been moving, but instead hypnotized by all forms of movements surrounding you. Now I say to you, begin to walk.’ The two voices mutated to silence.

Nduduzo Makhathini

17 October 2018


Months later as we reached the mountain top, a heavy storm came. In the midst of it all, I saw an old man dressed in a white gown, he looked majestic. He stood still and did not seem affected or disturbed by all that happened around him. In his hands, he held an unusual flute. I came to look even closer, and noticed he had slightly more fingers then most of us.

I turned to my guide Nyawnde to ask about this man. Nyawnde related the story: ‘The old man had inherited the flute from his mother when he was a young man.’ He continued to say: ‘His mother was a wonderful musician, and one day she was fetched the wise ones in a spaceship believed to be from one of the most musical planets called KwaUndonsi. The old man believed that all musicians came from this planet and one day he also shall join the greater music community on the other side…’

After listening to Nywande, I turned back to the old man and this time he looked younger. I came closer to him and he disappeared, and quite surprisingly the sound of his flute kept playing. I looked up to the sky and saw a gigantic spacecraft from which a flute fell on my hands.



Uyisithunywa Esihle (John Coltrane)

This one time I listened to Trane, travelled so far and almost never came back. Afterwards, I was in such a shock and needed to share what I had just experienced with someone. I went to a friend, a master whom himself was a huge Trane disciple. Subsequent to his intense listening to what I had to share, he calmly responded: ‘…You shouldn’t have come back, this world is not for us’. Well, to this day I am still processing this statement, somedays it makes sense and somedays layers of confusion.

But for now, let me speak briefly about how I encountered Trane’s music and perhaps get into what it represents to me. I met Trane through his music, more specifically his albums A Love Supreme (1965) which I had discovered in the library during my studies at Technikon Natal. This is perhaps the first jazz record I had ever listened to right to the end without feeling lost, it felt as though Trane (through this record) understood my people, knew my village our chants and dances. In many ways, the experience of listening to this record took me back to the various ceremonies and rituals I had attended in my upbringing, there was some sort of unexplainable familiarity around it. It was a transcendental experience overlapping the concept of time and space. The record gave me lots of hope, in this new journey of becoming an improvisor at least through an instrument this time around.

It is crucial to note that before this experience, I had no background in jazz music. All I knew was the singing of the birds, and other natural sounds. I also knew the different repertoires from a range of traditional musics that my people sang. There is a connection between Trane (his music) and my grandmother. Ugogo (grandma) is an integral member of any black community and more so in an African context. Ogogo are probably some of the greatest teachers of all times. Among other teachings from grandma was being taught and made to experience the power of music and how it aligns humans to various spheres of consciousness. Meaning, before I went to ‘study’ music, I already knew that through sound it was possible to tune into other frequencies and tap into some kind of parallel existence. In other words, this is the feeling I got from listening to A Love Supreme and later other Trane recordings that came after.

Now back to my initial story about intense listening to Trane. As part of preparing for my next concert taking place at the Joy of Jazz next Saturday, I went back to Trane in fact I religiously feel a need to go back to Trane. Partly, this time around it is because I felt that doing a collaboration with a great master such as Azar Lawrence whom among other people has worked with McCoy Tyner, Trane would be central and a perfect point of departure to new spheres. So, I went back to my collection and found mostly the post A Love Supreme recordings of Trane, I listened intensely. I went really far beyond the stars and deep in the underworlds. Strangely enough this time I had no fear, I guess it has to do with where my journey has taken me over the years. I had to confront the existence of other worlds.

This morning I woke up from a dream, and I had forgotten most parts of it but as I go through the day in Trane’s company I am constantly re-membering parts of this beautiful dream. I remember seeing Trane, he played with us and my whole entire village knew his music and he knew our music too. Another part I recall is, there were no amplifications, but sound travelled over the mountains to other villages, them too were singing the same songs and we could hear and feel their pulse.

Mr John William Coltrane for being a faithful messenger for our people in the diaspora, motherland and other worlds, we acknowledge your eternal presence.


Nduduzo Makhathini

The City of Golden Gates

Then I was taken to the most beautiful city I had ever seen, ‘The City of Golden Gates’. Among other things, my guide told me that in this city people never owned keys to these glorious gates but knew songs that could open and close them as they wished. She continued to say that, the gates were built by ancient gods who inhabited the city millions of years ago. The gods had invented the gates for men to remember them and in that way each gate represented a passageway to a deity’s heart. 

My guide also said that, the elderly citizens who had mastered all songs, lived in their gods’ hearts and didn’t need to sing anymore but as they come close to every gate the gods opened for them. 

Later on this day I arrived at the initiation school where people learned various songs. I spoke to a fellow student who had learned about 8000 songs and was preparing to graduate, he told me that he had been studying for 300 years. He further told me that at an advanced level his teachers visited him in dreams. Meaning, he didn’t have go to class but fall into deep sleep (ubuthongo) for a number of years to eventually wakes up and present new repertoires. 

Still amazed by what I just heard, I went through to have my first class. Interestingly enough our teacher taught through silence and we had to respond in song, all in unison. 

Iphupho (19.09.2018)

Nduduzo Makhathini 

Remembering Mseleku

So in 2001/2 myself and a group of students came together and organized a Bheki Mseleku tribute concert (perhaps first and only that Mseleku witnessed) that we called ‘Bheki’s Corner’ the idea was to celebrate Mseleku’s life and music, and how his very existence encouraged us towards a new musical directions. The concert took place at the Jazzy Rainbow and was attended by Bab’uBheki Mseleku, Bab’uZim Ngqawana among other significantly important guests. This was indeed an honor for us, it kept us in touch with Mseleku, even when he moved back to London.

After Mseleku’s departure in 2008, I lacked a sonic language for remembering him, I basically couldn’t play his music without tears in my eyes, I was too scared. In retrospect I realize that I was also sad and couldn’t accept the fact that he was now on the other side. I had questions to ask…

In 2016, it was through Brother Eugene Skeef that I again renewed my strength to remember this great master and his songbook; what it meant in the current times. This soon culminated in a tribute concert at the Orbit featuring Mseleku’s friend and band-mate Bab’uEddie Parker who had come to join us for Listening to the Ground at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. This gave me so much healing, so much hope.

As part of this healing process, through the British Academy, York University and Stellenbosch University I did my masters thesis on Mseleku’s life and music, which in many ways has reminded me how important it was for me to find deeper ways of connecting with my master and a lost friend.

Where I’m really trying to get is that; I’m thankful for this moment, and the love and support you’ve all been showing in recent projects around Mseleku, firstly the one in July supported by the Market Theatre and lastly the ‘Rediscovering the Genius of Bheki Mseleku’ supported by Pegs Music Project, joined by scholars and musicians, including another Mseleku follower Brother Afrika Mkhize and others.

In African cosmologies and beliefs, it is said that an ancestor can only live for as long as the ones on this side remember them and chant their names, their music… Today I again remember Mseleku.

Below is a letter I wrote to Mseleku, it’s also part of my thesis:


Nduduzo Makhathini

A Journey of a Believer: What has Men Invented?

I had been flying all this time, but when I realised that is when I fell. Even when I fell, I still did not quite reach the ground. As I was about to, I remembered that birds could fly and I became a bird.

I landed in a place I had never been, but certainly parts of me mused upon having visited before. While reminiscing on this moment, some gigantic beings emerged from the sky. The sky appeared to be so close to the ground, I could touch the clouds.

These beings starred at me, right above my eyes. I waited for them to speak and instead, they broke into song. They sung harmonious sounds, not just my ears but this time my entire body could hear, I felt their song. Though the language was new, my soul understood and sang along. At this moment I tried looking at myself, and realised I had vanished. A voice said to me ‘forget the past, be here now and go ahead’.

From this moment a new body emerged, a new self. It felt as though I was looking at myself from inside this body, a body of light. The sounds became more pronounced, though the volume had quietened the potency remained. I started to focusing intensely on the timbre of their voices, it was beautiful. But then I noticed something.

And I recall thinking: ‘So all this time in planet earth we thought these sounds were a result of human creation based on our inventions of musical instruments but on this planet all these sounds are singable. So what have the humans really created? It seems as though our creator Umvelinqangi had initially created and given us all, and we now spend our lives investing ways of recovering and repackaging that which had been lost.’

After this thought, I transitioned and fell back on this side, soon I woke up.

Iphupho (07 August 2018)
Nduduzo Makhathini

Indonsa Kusa (Morning Star)

I’m listening to the most amazing performance by nature sounds, possibly the world’s greatest music. These sounds are egoless, do not belong to no man but available to/for all, they do not have a name they simply are. They are in tune with the cosmos.

After all the often; significantly unpleasant, dissonant sounds of human made instruments and technologies, something special happens around midnight. Another world emerges, accompanied by the most beautiful music of the cosmos. This music plays throughout our sleep until we wake up to disrupt.

I think the world would be a more harmonious place if we were to be awake at this time to silently absorb this music then go to sleep morning.

Somehow this thought just made sense in this particular moment of my innocent observation.


Nduduzo Makhathini


I love how jazz refers to a set of chord sequences as ‘changes’ and the art of navigating these changes as an ‘improvisation’.

Is this not perhaps what life is about? Being presented with new situations and constantly looking at interesting ways of responding to change, thus in a constant improvisatory mode.

If this is the case maybe then there is something to learn from the jazzmen and women around us in terms of how they prepare/not prepare their responses to the changes.

Nduduzo Makhathini

Isandla: A Third Hand

He is an intense being, just a mention of his name changes everything. As I introduced the song ‘Umthakathi’ the whole vibration on the bandstand transformed.

Let me tell you a little bit about umthakathi (witch/magician) the man, the honest truth is I had never seen him but heard so much about him as a child. Now thinking back I realize that, I had never really met anyone who had a direct encounter with him. But I guess that is where his greatness comes from, he is a mystical being. With that said, I do recall feeling his presence the one time when I walked from kwaMalume uSibiya, whom lived in a village across the river from ours eMaqongqo. It was very late at night and I walked alone. Just after I had crossed the river I felt ‘ukushwaqeka kwezinwele’ (I’m sorry I cannot translate that part, one has to experience it). I also remember hearing dogs howling (umkhulungwane) which also according to the elders signaled that ‘Umthakathi’ was indeed in the village. I quickly ran home an never looked back. As a child I was also told that if you looked back and saw his eyes you will never be able to turn your head back ever again.

Back on the bandstand, perhaps there is really no difference between the two spaces since my village in my many ways was a type of bandstand too, people negotiated space and improvised almost every move. As we played ‘Umthakathi’ in this particular concert and different soloist/improvisers were engaging deeper with the theme, came my turn to improvise. I had gone far out with the comping and didn’t know how to leave this role, but at the same time melodic improvisational ideas and countrapatal layers would not stop coming.

It was for the very first time in my life as a pianist that for a second, I wished for a third hand. As I looked between my two hands while comping a very meditative rhythmic figure, I started seeing another hand. A hand that did not look like mine emerged between my hands. Soon I put my hand over it and it guided me over a three note motif that I had never played or heard before. So amazed at what has just happened I went back to the rhythmic comping figure. There third hand never stopped playing, I panicked so much that I stopped playing completely and allow the next soloist to improvise.

Whose hand was it?
Nduduzo Makhathini

Performance as a Ritual: Alphinah

‘I had not seen her since she left, I wondered about her journey, but I never lost hope.’

I remember last evening when we were backstage before the concert, we felt that we had prepared more material than possible to present in our given slot. Eventually we had to cut down on the repertoire, and among other things I also remember motivating strongly that ‘Umsamu’ was an important composition for me to perform ‘in search of my people’. Indeed the piece was performed as a closing theme for our concert. As we ended this tune something told me to play and the ‘B Section’ (bridge to the other side) just one last time. The tune left me in a deep place, I knew one still had to travel further.

As the thoughts kept lingering, I soon fell asleep into the other world. I saw her, though she didn’t speak the symbolism presented in this particular dream was clear and effortless to understand. Now I know!!!

Ngiyabonga Gogo

Nduduzo Makhathini

Singing our Stories: Experience as a Tool for Composition

‘Shwele’ is a song based on a true story I experienced as young boy during the violence years in the late 80’s in Emaqongqo a village in KwaZulu Natal.

During these times all men were a targeted it didn’t matter what age, so this one day because there were gun shots singing almost everywhere and my parents were at work, being alone in the house I panicked so much until I ran into my next door neighbor’s house to hide. When I was there I experienced something so intense that I would never forget, some old lady was babysitting her grand-daughter while her son (father of the child) was being killed so brutally right outside the house we heard every sound till he stopped breathing.

The reaction of this old woman of wisdom was unbelievable though she didn’t utter any word she started singing very quietly to the baby. It seemed to me that this humming was both a prayer to the ancestors and the angels to welcome their son but also a prayer to the child that didn’t understand what was happening.

This wise woman had two choices, one was to go outside and try protect her son and the chances were when they discover us in the house we were all going to get killed. So she went for the second choice which was to save her grandchild so she can tell the story to her when she grows up.

I remembered this experience when I was recording Icilongo – The African Peace Suite and I wrote this song which I sang and recorded in tears in studio.

Please listen with your heart:

Nduduzo Makhathini

Learning from the Birds

If you walk underneath a tree, and suddenly hear a bird sing a sweet melody. Then something tells you to look up and as you raise your eyes see this beautiful and colorful bird. From this point, you immediately begin to hear the melody differently and clearer…

Let us be ears that see and eyes that hear. Let us sing a sweet melody but also be as beautiful and colorful as a bird.

Nduduzo Makhathini


Though this concert was billed as ‘Tete Mbambisa SA-UK Big Sound 2017 Tour’ sitting [or rather standing as the music had kept me on my feet the entire time] in the audience at ‘The Rainbow’ jazz club in Pinetown, KwaZulu Natal, Sunday the 9th of July 2017, I felt as though the responsibility of allowing us on this journey was equally shared between Mbambisa and the great Bab’uBarney Rachabane on alto saxophone, there was a strong sense of trust which obviously was supported by the great talents of brother Ayanda Sikade on the drums and Mbambisa’s UK connection featuring; Julian Argüelles (tenor), Chris Batchelor (trumpet) and Steve Watts (bass).

I walked into the venue on the last song of the first set, the room was buzzing and I was content from hearing the last couple of bars of the last tune of the 1st set in this fully charged room. The blending of the horns was beautiful, exceptionally as well as thoughtfully arranged by the great Mbambisa himself, those who know will remember that harmonies have been his speciality from the early days of the ‘Four Yanks’ vocal group. You could also tell that a lot of this music brought quite a nostalgic feeling in the room for a lot of the older folks in the audience. I am particularly very sensitive to talking audiences during a performance, but yesterday was an exception, I started hearing these conversations as part of the greater narrative that the music was seeking to address regarding our journey as a country and its extremely interesting layers of history. I also felt a very strong presence of our ancestry in the room, the venue is indeed historic.

The conversation/dialogue between Mbambisa and Rachabane came out quite robustly throughout the concert, this was a history class to those that had ears to hear. These two jazz giants started playing together in the 60’s at the height of South Africa’s trying times and in the middle of the 76 uprising recorded the ‘Big Sound’ with an octet. There is something really deep, touching and moving with their articulations of ‘Marabi’ it reflects our past and present in a deep way and of course they are the fathers of this music.

Perhaps this conversation also captures the mood of what Prof Salim Washington terms as ‘inxiles’ referring to musicians that never left the country during apartheid, but saw it all, and documented it in their music. Washington describes it as ‘an evolving aesthetic that move from protest to celebration’ Washington 2012. But again, through the concert we witnessed yet another layer to the discourse, a manifestation of nuances of Southern African jazz that developed and evolved outside the country in exile as half of the ensemble of Mbambisa’s ‘Big Sound’ was British and had never been in South Africa before but instead absorbed this music through a movement orchestrated by South African musicians in exile such as the ‘Blue Notes’ and others that were in London. You could tell that the British musicians were equally comfortable with the vibe in the music and understood where it came from.

Another piece that personally touched me very deep was a song called ‘Black Heroes’ it made me once more to believe that this certainly is a very symbolic time for our country, there is a need to listen, so much is being told and said through the music. There is a certain level of awareness that these musics project and cultivate that when properly assimilated can liberate our people and inspire a restoration of culture.

Lastly, I also saw something really special during this performance, maybe it’s my imagination, but perhaps we might see this later when our brothers and sisters behind the lens start sharing the images from the concert, looking from above it looked to me as if the band had deliberately set up in an X-shaped angle as a way of symbolizing and visually addressing the racism, social injustice and all the inequalities in society, so how I read it was; the (X) represented a big no to these social ills. Through the ‘Big Sound’ we tasted a possibility of a rainbow nation as ‘The Rainbow’ stood as a backdrop to the bandstand.

Love to the team behind this very important initiative…

Nduduzo Makhathini


This piece of music has haunted me all day, here are some of my thoughts:

‘L.A. Soul Train Blues’ – Bhekumuzi Mseleku

Woooooooooooooooh, the first 16bar intro of this song is a study. I don’t know how many times I have played this section of the song and it still has the same impact on me. This makes me wonder what was being channeled through this tune, the title doesn’t give away the full meaning but perhaps the fact that it’s a blues gives a hint even though it has odd bars making a total of 13 bars instead of the 12 bars that we are used to. The tune still sounds very much bluesy though, there is also a 16 bar middle section that stays is the form throughout.

The tune opens with a very meditative, chant-like ostinato between the bass and the piano left hand, a full on swing feel on the ride cymbal and with very precise sticking. When the sax plays it’s first note I hear a cry, shortly after this same note comes back the 2nd time with a bit of overtones which adds even more intensity to the music, I believe heaven’s doors could open to this note. It also sounds to me as if Mseleku was trying to emulate the sound of a train whistle which could be very symbolic, there is quite a strong narrative around trains in Southern Africa especially during the apartheid regime they carried stories as they travel between cities. Artists like Bra Hugh Masekela have explored this narrative at length, a good example is ‘Stimela’ by Masekela but it is also possible that Mseleku speaks of a different train though I see and feel strong parallels between the two pieces as far as the emotional content is concerned.

Often we hear people talk about Mseleku the great pianist of which he is, but it’s quite seldom that we speak of Mseleku the saxophone player, or even Mseleku the composer and arranger. Perhaps our ignorance towards his greatness as a saxophonist is influenced by his humbleness, I have heard Mseleku on numerous interviews saying he doesn’t regard himself as a saxophonist instead he just love the sound of the instrument. But on this particular record I definitely believe he qualifies beyond any possible criteria to be called one, just from the sound perceptive and the flow of ideas he reminded me a lot of Joe Henderson and at time Pharaoh Sanders both were some of his music gurus. Mseleku has in the past done sessions as a tenor man, the one that comes to mind is the historical Dance World Dance by Rodney Kendrick a good friend of Mseleku who is also a great piano player, on this record Mseleku’s tenor once again stands out.

I am touched by Mseleku’s command of the instrument in the first couple of bars of this tune, he makes the horn tell a story and I feel it’s too big a statement not be noticed. While I was struck by all these kind of thoughts listening to this record I became even more puzzled when I learned that he is both the tenor saxophonist and pianist on this particular record or even how about the fact that he also sings and play guitars on a the one song. For years I have been thinking we have surely not explored this genius’s work enough. Also while I was listening to the record I tried to imagine how this recording session played itself out, my first thought was the most logical one which is they had recorded this album as piano trio and then Mseleku did his overdubs later, but the amount of interplay, call and response between the piano and the sax makes me doubt my take on how this session was carried.

The personnel on this record is also another fascinating factor. Charlie Haden is on double bass and Billy Higgins on drums. Haden was loved by a lot of pianists including the great Keith Jarrett during his years with impulse record in the 70s, he was obviously loved because of his openness to sound and his very wide understanding of harmony. I personally loved Haden’s playing because of his ability to always have a birds eye view in his approach towards ensemble playing.

Billy Higgins is one the greatest master drummers and a specialist when it comes to creating space and textures in the music, his brush work on the kit is heavenly, he has amazing sensitivity.

There is so much magic on this record, but this song just stood out for me this afternoon driving in the busy Durban’s festive mood.

Oh I just remembered something, some years ago in the early 2000 I once asked Mseleku a rather childish question and said: ‘Which one is your favorite out of all your albums…’ Very reluctantly he replied: ‘Check out Star Seeding‘ I will never forget that.

Nduduzo Makhathini

Star Seeding

Release Date 1995, Recording Date March 11, 1995 & March 12, 1995


Monk never stepped out of the music, he simply would just stop playing the piano perhaps leave the bandstand but he has always been inside.

At any moment from his first note he sounds as if he’s played a couple before that, his sound is heard in utter silence. I also noticed that he doesn’t only play music for the ears but music for all five senses and beyond. He is a composition, watching his very movement you hear sound whether he’s on and off the bandstand even his gestures are part of the music.

Monk is perfectly in time, I’m almost tempted to say if the trees, rivers and the mountains were to sing some jazz they would sound like him, he is tremendously in sync with the rhythm of life.

What a gift!!!

Nduduzo Makhathini

You’re in Chains Too

The outside wall of a prison could as well be the inside wall of another prison that is the world outside which is restricted by same wall from coming in… Freedom is not possible on either side of the wall, an act of removing those barriers is a step towards freedom for all and should be exercised collectively for freedom is communal.

The jailer also needs to be free from imprisoning as much as the prisoner needs to be free from imprisonment.

Nduduzo Makhathini


I am learning that playing music in the mode that I always wish for and prefer is a huge responsibility simply because it links itself to things beyond the music.

I am also learning that the magic in the music is and will always be there, we can be a part of it but this too requires us to dissolve and allow ourselves to be absorbed by it.

These observations have led me to a thought that perhaps certain modes of sound projections and precise articulations of narratives that reside within them may demand a lot of practice, they maybe challenge the way in which we think about life and question where we situate music in a much broader scope of existence.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Legacy: Isithunzi

I have no idea why, where, how, who… It just came and I started writing

Kuthiwa langa thizeni kwakunesalukazi esase sikhulile impela nabezukulu baso basebengamakhehla namazinyo abo esaqedwa zinhlobonhlobo zezinyama. Ingani umkhulu walayikhaya wayengumuntu onemfuyo. Okwathi ngokuthi ahambe emhlabeni isalukazi lesi senyuka sayohlala entabeni thizeni ekuthiwa yahlala iluhlaza ngisho nezitshalo zezinhlobonhlobo zizimilela nje ngaphandle kokunakekelwa ngumlimi.

Isalukazi lesi sasidume isigodi sonke ngephimbo laso elihle kuthiwa masiqambe sacula wawubona kuphuma zonke izilwanyana zehlathi ziyobungaza eduze nomuzi futhi nezayizitha zimane zikhohlwe zithathwe umunkenenezo wezwi likagogo. Phela abaziyo bathi eze eyohlala entabeni njena kwakungenxa yobudlelwane bakhe nekhehla ekwathi lingahamba emhlabeni wakhuphukela entabeni okwakuyindlela yokusondela kulo emazulwini kanti nokucula lokhu kwakuyindlela yokuxhumana.

Langalimbe isalukwazi siziswa sibuthakathaka sabiza umphakathi wonke sisho sithi akungabibikho osalayo. Impela kwasukuma nesinedolo kwekhushukwa intaba kuyozwiya ukuthi ngabe isalukazi lesi sasizothini.

Kwathi lapho wonke umuntu esezindlebe zimbili waqala wakhuluma wathi: “Kuyo yonke leminyika ngiphila emhlabeni ngifunde isifundo esikhulu ukuthi amahubo ulwimi lwakho konke okuphilayo lapha emhlabeni, ngaphansi kwamanzi naphezulu emazulwini.” Emva kwalokho savala amahlo sagingqika phansi sethula. Kwaqhuma isililo umphakathi usashaqeki ilesigameko phela wayesephumile emphefumulweni.

Kanti futhi lapho isalukazi siwele khona umhlabathi wadabuka phakathi wehla umzimba kwaphinde kwavaleka futhi. Emva kwemizuzwana kwamila elikhulu ihlathi elalilihle futhi liluhlaza likhiqiza ezimnandi izithelo lezi. Kuthiwa lelihlathi lalihuba izingoma mihla namalanga ungafunga ukuthi kunabaculi ababecashe kulo kanti cha ukuvunguzela kwemithi.

Okwamangaza abaningike ukuthi umphakathi wonke awuzobungaze inkulumo kagogo weduka iminyaka uzama ekwehlela ezanzi kwentaba lapho kwakwakhiwe khona kusukela ngomzuzu isalukazi esedliwa ngaso umhlabathi.

Nduduzo Makhathini

Our Fears

In a very long and interesting dream last night I remember being asked:

Why do you think human beings in the world are in such fear to create and share their creations?

I responded:

The people in this world are looking for perfection, the idea of perfection is an illusion as it is impossible for any individual to attain perfection, perfection is the sum of all the imperfections.

Nduduzo Makhathini (Dream 19 March 2017)

Totality as Embedded in African Languages

Some connections between: ingoma (song/dance) , ngoma (a drum), isangoma (healer)… They are all signal driven and they don’t question the inner voice but seek to understand.

Song allows herself to be remembered and sung anytime, anywhere and by anyone that receives inspiration so is a dance. A song gives equal love to all.

A drum is ready to listen anytime and he avails himself for the opportunity of being played as he believes this is his purpose in this life. A drum is ready to totally submit himself to the chosen drumer.

A healer is ready to do as the inner voice says, beyond fear, beyond any form of confines, through the trust he has for the ones that speak through him and his actions he transcends all.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Indawo kaGogo

There is something about our grandmothers, their methods of storytelling and how it taps into parts of our memory that don’t forget. I personally think it’s something worth investigating for the ‘institutions’ of knowledge. I don’t see why it should this difficult to remember what we were taught at universities two years ago if it comes so natural and easy to remember a story or even a song from our grandmothers, taught decades ago.

Perhaps the decolonization of the current curriculum should begin here, or maybe I’m just missing my grandmother…

Nduduzo Makhathini


Thoughts around land as I am ‘LISTENING TO THE GROUND’ this morning. I am again grateful for this music as it continues to be a thinking space for me…

Besides the fact that Africa has some of the richest, most fertile land in the universe. Our urgent need for land ‘ownership’ perhaps arises on a cultural/spiritual level. The symbolism of land in our context. Land has always been the unifying force for our people, a sacred place where we do our rituals, the beginning and end of a life cycle; from the burying of the umbilical chord when a child is born to the burying of our ancestors when they pass this realm.

Also in the precolonial era, though people owned land, it was often a communal/collective practice, land was owned by communities whereby families were allocated land by traditional leaders, it was more of a birthright as opposed to the commercialized version of land ownership imposed by the colonizer.

We continue to listen to the ground…

Nduduzo Makhathini

Pork Pie Hat

He anchored the groove, and made everyone sit comfortably in their roles perhaps this was the plan from the very inception of the songbook. I say songbook because it sounded like these songs belonged together looking at the manner at which they we’re presented to us as an audience. If I didn’t know each of these musicians I would believe it if someone told me they were siblings, their sound suggested that they had a very deep understanding and love for one another that was way deeper than the music. It was indeed inspiring.

This was one of the most anticipated moment for all of us, around 20:00 the venue was warm people had already started walking in, finding their tables and settling down. The room was filled with a calming energy that made us not to panic even when the concert started a little late.

Eventually that moment came Sibongakonke Mlonyeni-Mama the programs manager at The Orbit walked on stage, we all know her background in journalism but you could tell last night that she was wearing a different cap altogether, she was introducing a younger brother someone she knew very well and loved dearly. She gave quite a touching background on the artist and it set the mood perfectly.

Soon the four gentlemen walked on to the stage starting off as a quartet. Now the configuration in my opinion was paying tribute to Sikhakhane’s heroes John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Winston Mankunku, Dewy Redman and others that have employed this formation in some of their very historic recordings. The composition ‘Ezinkalweni’ meaning a far away place, though ironically it sounded to me like he was drawing so close as close as an unborn child to its mother while inside the belly ‘okhalweni’. The rumbling sounds of the piano, the cymbals, the bow and a deep tenor sound soon transported us to other dimensions. This piece soon evolved to almost a Gregorian chant with a subtle groove underneath, and now the cats were on flight mode with dropping their brilliant solos.

It wasn’t long before they brought it all down again and invited their special guest to join them on a beautiful ballad that was very much in the jazz tradition allowing us a melancholy moment to remember the late Abbey Lincoln. You could tell that the links between the melody and the solos were well thought, and the singer delivered the piece with such ease filling the room with a lot of presence in her voice, we indeed felt the love perhaps ‘Hidden Love’ as the song says. This was a special moment, the set once again picked up and ended on a bang. There was such a joy from the audience, and a great buzz outside the venue from the fellow musicians that had come to support.

Before we knew it we heard another opening song from the band calling us into the 2nd set, this particular song’s title I can not remember but it had a lot of Pharoah influence. It is also very important to say that what is really special and what stands out about Sikhakhane’s playing and his music is that it’s deeply rooted in the history of black music, through his sound you can tell his deep understanding of his people, their origins, the diaspora and the movement in-between all are equally considered in his thoughts. His involvement of a conga player from West Africa in his group alone tells us a lot about how he thinks about this music.

I’m going to end it here since we all can see that Sikhakhane and all the members of his group have very bright and interesting journeys ahead of them respectively.

Sithi isiZulu singegeqi magula sengathi siyemuka, the music is here to stay…


Linda Sikhakhane Tenor and Soprano

Sakhile Simani Trumpet and Flugelhorn

Sanele Phakathi Piano

Neville Nhlanhla Radebe Double Bass

Sphelelo Mazibuko Drums

Hadji Ndong Percussion

Special guest:

Omagugu Makhathini Vocals

Review Two Sides, One Mirror album launch

Nduduzo Makhathini

We Used To Dance: A Tribute to a Friend

Those 5/6 hours on a bus trip from Durban to Joburg felt really short. Even those overpriced taxi rides from Park Station to Yoeville then the melting pot of all things, didn’t bother me much since my eagerness and yearning to ‘dance’ had become deeper. Now thinking back I realize that the cab drivers bakoGauteng probably took advantage of this innocent looking Zulu boy because of my accent hence the overpricing. Anyway they got me to my destination pretty safe and sound, the rest is real history.

Every jazz musician used to come to this home, almost everyone I got to play with shortly after I had moved up to Joburg I got introduced to at this home. In fact one of my first jazz regular gig at ‘Rocka’ then in Milpark was when I was depping for this special friend I’m talking about, this eventually became a regular gig for me.

Time used to fly so quick in this home, learning new songs, getting exposed to all kinds of records and most memorable the stories I heard, they were out of this world and so organically giving me a clear picture of what to expect when I eventually move up to Joburg, ‘kwanyama kayipheli kuphela amazinyo endoda‘ I was to later learn that this was indeed true.

After everything and all those lessons the last thing I would do is to bother this generous man by asking for a place to sleep, so I would claim that I would be catching a bus back home at midnight. Well the truth is I would have to go back to the bus station and sleep on the benches to catch a bus the next morning and again this was well with me. I would be smiling my way back to Durban to tell everyone how beautiful, generous and giving my new friend/mentor was.

I remember on one of my first TV gigs (Lilizela Mlilizeli) I was playing 2nd keyboards for this great pianist, now at least my accommodation would be sorted so we spent hours listening to then his new record Who’s Got the Map he made me learn some of his tunes before the record hit the stores, I was over the moon.

Too many stories to tell, for now I just thought I should share briefly with you on how I got to Joburg and perhaps how I got into the jazz circuits thereafter.

Enkosi Tshawe

Nduduzo Makhathini

Master Bophela

I jumped inside a rehearsal room after standing outside for quite some time, I couldn’t contain my joy anymore.

It must have been around 2001/2 the music department was still at City Campus, Technikon Natal in Durban, great musicians/masters such as Sandile Shange, Busi Mhlongo, Bheki Mseleku, Enoch Mthalane, Bonani Mambi, Shaluza Max and a lot more walked in and out of campus either for a rehearsal, meeting, teaching or simply just visiting. Now these were the years and more especially since over the years we’ve witnessed a decline in these interactions between ‘institutions of knowledge’ and the keepers of knowledge in the nearby communities (and often in the townships), I guess these institutions have not realized the importance of mentorship (master/disciple relationships) in these space or it’s simply a failure of acknowledgement of different teaching methods or mere ignorance.

Back to the rehearsal room, I squeezed myself in a tiny corner ensuring I don’t disturb this ‘ritual’ as it sounded to me so this morning I remembered some of the lyrics that were sung:

‘Silindile thina asinalutho… Kudala silindile silal’ezintabeni, adudu sithandwa…’ Perhaps these lyrics spoke about disposition, angazi

After this song an old man sitting at the piano (he seemed to be the one conducting this rehearsal) asked me in iSiZulu: “Young man how can we help you” I got so nervous as I was under the impression that no one noticed me coming in, and eventually I responded: “I have a question Baba, I want to learn to improvise the way you do” with a big smile he answered: “Come another time”

Six months later after coming every other week and getting the same answer. I got my lesson that lasted for about two minutes. He offered me some chalk and said: “Go write your name on the chalkboard” and very eager to go to the piano I wrote it as quick as I can. He then said: “Wonderful” and I smiled. He continued: “Any form of learning is a process, the same amount of time it took you learning to write so fluently it’s the same amount of time time it will take you to learn to improvise, now enjoy your years of studying” and that was the end I was very disappointed.

Years later I’ve been thinking, this was probably the greatest music/life lesson ever, I also realized that masters that have walked the path teach differently to the ‘teachers’ by qualifications. Masters teach us to navigate towards the discovering of our own responses to ours questions, whereas ‘teachers’ in an ‘institution’ give you a set of fixed answers to every question and for me this idea lacks improvisation.


Improvisation is life, not a problem to be solved. It is something we live every single day and forms part of our evolution.

Nduduzo Makhathini

MUSIC THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNIVERSE: Living with a song in our hearts

This one time, in my village came a heavy storm. It was so scary we could even feel the ground vibrate and as young boy I had all kinds of thoughts running in my mind ‘Are we going to die, if so are we all going to heaven?’

The late great ‘Alphinah’ my grandmother saw it in my eyes that I was panicking and she immediately stood up and ask if she could be given her church gown ‘isivatho nesikhali’ and she went outside.

Probably this made us get even more worried so we quickly ran to peep through the window onto find that she was chanting a melody so gracefully. She did this for a while and the storm gently faded away then she came back inside the house looking very weak.

“Gogo, how did you do that?” I asked and she responded very quietly “You see my child, music has the power to communicate and speak to everything I learned this from the elders.”

This is when I started thinking about the power of music, I must have been seven years of age. You see my grandmother came from the Zionist Church which is based on ritualistic and Africanized worship characterized by very meditative chanting/singing, dancing, clapping and drumming it also incorporates divination, ancestral beliefs and believes in traditional magic.

Now the past couple of days I have been trying to recall what song was she probably singing and what sort of songs in my upbringing had this kind of power.

REPERTOIRES (song as a vehicle for change)

I have also been thinking about repertoires in my continent, a couple years ago Bab’uThemba Mkhize shared some of the Hugh Tracey collection with me mainly recorded from southern Africa and since then I have been very interested in finding out about what each piece intended on achieving. Within this process I have been trying to collect the rest of this collection to cover the whole continent.

In the collection I discovered that the compositions were grouped according to their purpose for certain ceremonies and rituals; lullabys, initiation songs, river songs, dirges, wedding songs, funeral songs, religious songs and more. I have also been told that within these songs some were only performed once a year, some every five years so each tune had a very strong and unique intention.

I personally feel that this kind of directness is important in our music and as a country I think in the post apartheid South Africa after 94 we experienced a huge paradigm shift whereby we started having less and less of these intentions in our music, it somehow feels like there was a projected layer of illusion that made us feel that things were now okay and there was no need to be further deliberate about change in society anymore. Perhaps this happened in our writing, poetry and dances too.

But in the recent years I have noticed once more a change in our thinking, our music, our creatives have become very direct and intentional about the kind of change that we need in society and how we can project that in our creations. There is a certain realization that is giving birth to new nuances and articulations of the music and it is indeed time for change.

Nduduzo Makhathini


In the same way that inyanga (herbalist) goes out in the wilderness to find herbs, sometimes deep underground but he doesn’t panic because he has fully accepted to be a conduit and his guiding light comes from his ancestors, I look for similar things within the music. The goal is the same, we seek a transmission of healing forces, our contributions are also similar in that they are geared towards creating a better world for all.


Nduduzo Makhathini

Thinking Through Jazz

Terminologies in jazz are very logical; changes, root, turnaround, collective improvisation, trading 4’s, bridge, shout chorus, walking bass, stride, ride…

Firstly let’s think about a tree and how it anchors itself on the ground through its ‘roots’. Let’s also think about how far and deep the ‘roots’ can travel underground to ensure the wellbeing of a tree as a whole. But wait a minute, how often do we think about the ‘roots’ when we appreciate the beauty of any tree it’s branches, leaves, flowers or even when we enjoy it’s tasty fruits? We often don’t pay that much attention and perhaps within that we could also think about our societies and the significance of our history and cultures (‘roots’) as anchors of all things, and furthermore the importance of memory…

But back to jazz for now, I feel the ‘root’ note [often employed by the bass] has a similar function in jazz. It makes everything else shine but itself and as an observation I have been looking at how most of my favorite piano players; McCoy Tyner, Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston and others respect and pay a lot of attention to the ideology of embracing and viewing the ‘root’ note as the fundamental principle in improvisation, the ‘root’ note as a common point of reference for all and a point departure to high spheres.

I am still trying to look into how as improvisers we could possibly make improvised music accessible as a thinking space for society that could be studied, adopted and applied in dealing with issues in our daily lives and problem solving…


Nduduzo Makhathini

Ode to a Master

I was thinking something a little out there, this out of body experience is quite an intriguing thing to think about… At least since July last year I get this kind of feeling with almost every concert, a feeling that during a performance one experiences some form of an astral projection.

Bab’uZim Ngqawana used to speak about it but he was such a great story teller that he would make us imagine all these things and sometimes get us all scared like little kids. So he once said:

‘Hey Makhathini kunzima ndoda, I once left my body at home for a bit long than normal, then I panicked and wanted to make my way back but I had gone to far from it, and for hours I couldn’t find my body. When I eventually came back everyone was worried thinking I had died so be careful of digging too deep in this music thing, you’ll be buried before your time…’ then he started laughing and I was left thinking to this day

Through stories masters are never forgotten.

Nduduzo Makhathini

Another World

I had always known there was another world

I was born in a Christian family and naturally my parents didn’t allow much room for other ideologies as everything else outside this context would somewhat be perceived to be anti-god or evil. I don’t regret the teachings I got as they often helped me to understand the power of prayer. Parallel to that, I’m forever thankful to the surrounding communities for always highlighting alternative belief systems or at least challenge and provoked questions around what we believed in as a family.

Like I say I’m not complaining because within the Zionist mode of Christianity there are things that I never missed out on, like meditative music, hand clapping, the drum, singing and prophecies ‘esiguqweni’ which often took place on the mountain or on a hill (this is also scriptural) or ‘iladi’ as it commonly had even more goodies for us, a bit of people’s food, biscuits and sweets that as a young boy I enjoyed a lot though that meant I had to be up all night I didn’t mind but in retrospect I can just imagine how much of an inconvenience it might have been for other people in households where not everyone necessarily subscribed to this kind of belief system.

You see in the Zionist Church everything is spirit driven (siholwa ngumoya) even the scriptures were improvised based on the direction of the spirit, it was more of a storytelling approach which applied very practical examples and methodologies. This made it very easy for one to absorb and imagine themselves as characters in what was being delivered or taught through a particular sermon.

There were other rituals that were practiced like cleansing rituals where evil spirits were being casted out of the body and sometimes we would hear spirits talk, I used to be very scared of this part. We also had the water rituals like baptism that took place by the lake/river (deprived of life guards since most of us including our pastors couldn’t swim) but like I say everything was led by the supreme power and people operated with a lot of faith in their hearts.

In the midst of it all this one day I had a dream, probably the most confusing one for a thirteen year old boy born in a Christian family.

The dream:

I saw a group of elderly women, they were chanting melodies that sounded somewhat similar to those of izangoma that I now and again see in my hood, they were also dressed like them carrying amashoba except that they were slightly older and their voices were a lot deeper. Their music was very trancelike, the next thing I found myself dancing at the center of the circle shape they had formed around me where the ritual took place. After a long ritual that included cleaning, body arts, learning of repertoires, dancing, playing of the drums and other things…

I woke up:

Upon waking up I noticed something rather strange. On my body I had blisters everywhere where the old women had brushed me with ishoba and according to the old ones this signaled that I was supposed to go for my initiation (ukwethasa). But prayer was the closest my ‘Christian family’ could offer, according to them, to cast out the demons that were attacking their child. By chance, through the old ones, that after telling them about the dream including descriptions of how some of the ancestors looked like in the dream, they could identify, relate and put connections to who the ancestors were, including revealing some of their names. Soon we went for consultation where we got advised accordingly, the conclusion was that after I have matriculated I would have to go for initiation. From this age I also started questioning the gap between dreams and the lives we live, do they sometimes overlap, do they exist parallel to each other at times, what is the connection?

About 18years later I became a jazz musician playing the piano within the context of improvisation. Could there be some connections perhaps with the newly discovered definitions of the instrument that I will

later gravitated towards?

As usual these things are easily forgotten, now about eighteen years later I started to partially loose my sight. As expected I ran to different eye specialist but the problem persisted and I lost more and more of my eye sight every single day. The doctors kept going on about how they’ve not seen such healthy eyes in a while and it became apparent to me that they were not going to be able to help.

Suddenly, I remembered my teenage dream, and started seeking help in that direction. I was guided through dreams since that day, this is how Listening To The Ground (2015) and rest of the projects afterwards came about. Listening To The Ground payed respect to the soil as being a symbol for our ancestors and the importance of staying connected to them, it opened my dreams and became a passageway for the acceptance of the gift.


African religions or our beliefs in ancestors has never existed as an indipendent entity to those of the higher being. But rather our ancestors as a link or messengers that connect us to God and God to his people. Umvelinqangi precedes the arrival of Christianity in Africa.

Nduduzo Makhathini


So I have been thinking quite intensely about how we set up on stage as a band and ultimately how the bandstand could be perceived as a sacred space. Some of the questions are: what informs our stage layout, how is this space shared with the fellow musicians, the audience and our ‘shadows’ in another dimension (umlozi)? I also thought a bit about how sound travels when we project through our instruments respectively. Through these questions some of our ‘standard’ stage layouts sort of made sense when I thought of it more on this sonic plane but what really inspires us is another question. I may also be very biased in this because my thoughts are based on what I know about our instruments and how they produce sound but there is more to sound than that.

These thoughts came when I was trying to visualize the whole ‘iKhambi’ group (The Cure Collective) which is an embellished/augmented jazz configuration with five drummers, six singers, four horns, a harp plus a rhythm section. It wasn’t difficult achieving this sound in studio because of all the technology that is available to us but I have a dream of taking it on stage and it’s of course challenging to imagine all of this in a ‘bandstand’ in some jazz club not unless we collectively allow ourselves to re-imagine performance spaces.

Perhaps the main reasons for my questioning arise from a place where I’m constantly trying contextualize what I was taught at school, some of my personal observations and some of what I’ve grown to understand through my journey as a musician versus some of the patterns I absorbed organically in my upbringing whereby it wasn’t toilsome to share spaces no matter how small or big, it simply happened organically. I recall everything almost happening in a circular manner, from our traditional dances, gatherings, rituals and even as far as some of the architecture especially in rural areas people still lived in huts. There are a lot of other examples we can think of and find similar patterns. I want to believe there was some level of consciousness to this and some significance to these geometric structures, I think that to a certain extent it helped the artist, people and communities focus and think in a particular way often a healthy way.

What I’m eventually hoping to get to is finding a way of incorporating some of this thinking into our compositional layout of the stage with a belief that this can encourage and improve our concentration levels during a spontaneous creative journey and promote a more communal approach to our playing. I later want to imagine the bandstand in the same way I think of umsamu or an altar (a place of focus during a ritual) where all our energies are centered and in this way also elevating the role of an audience to that of a participator during a performance/ritual.

I am simply looking for a new/old ways of sharing and presenting concerts/rituals that borrows attributes from our forefathers. Soon it will make sense

Nduduzo Makhathini


Part I

Somedays my pitch is perfect, I can hear any note and tell what it is. Is this something one can cultivate to some sort of a permanent state? Does this maybe have to do with our tuning to the greater tonality of the universe? Can this be in anyway connected to our state of being, our awareness?

Perhaps I should just enjoy it while it lasts, it is beautiful.

Part II

My questions are not directly concerned with ‘perfect pitch’ but more with the alignment of our consciousness to the frequency of the universe.

How I think about is, it’s more a thing that we can allow ourselves to tap into rather than learn, it’s there already the trees, the birds, streams all have it because they’re in tune with this frequency.

I understand that we can teach our ears to hear certain pitches after lots of practice ‘relative pitch’ it’s based on the past, it is something we’ve internalized. But is there a way of feeling these vibrations through our skin pores,

That is what I’m feeling today, but it comes and goes…


Nduduzo Makhathini

IMPICABADALA: Enigma of improvisation

Why should we fear? Yesterday, ‘Yesterday’ you already know that the ‘Now’ is filled and overflowing with wonders, for ‘Tomorrow’ has become an unknown mystery impossible to attain and often admired for changing his/her name to ‘Now’ as we get closer and ‘Tomorrow’ is soon called by your name Yesterday…. Yesterday I’m back at you!!!!!

Nduduzo Makhathini

Idlozi: Ode to my late great grandmother, uMaMnyandu

She appeared on the bandstand, came and leaned against the piano. I had not seen her since I was a baby when transitioned to the next dimension. In my thoughts I asked:‘Where have you been Gogo? Did I just play something that resonated with you or have you been standing here all this time and I just opened my eyes to you…’

Uyidlozi elihle, and thank you for visiting

Nduduzo Makhathini