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

6 thoughts on “Uyisithunywa Esihle (John Coltrane)

  1. Bliss bhuti. Just reminded me of my early musical influences as well with my gogo uMaBanda.

    All the best at JoJ. Sadly missing out this year.


  2. Siyathokoza Mkhulu. Interesting reflections, especially interesting when you connect with the fact that Coltrane himself was guided in a spiritual journey towards a Love Supreme, following a “painful” existence of lack, low self esteem and unbearable disconnect with his spirit.
    Ukhumbule umkhulu wakhe was umzayoni so he could not escaoe the gift.
    And all his work after this was healing work.
    Just like yours.


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