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
Omagugu Makhathini Vocals
Review Two Sides, One Mirror album launch