The Eastern Cape pays the Western Cape a visit in November through Zuko Yigi, a multidisciplinary jazz bassist from East London and Ne-ahtyah Mbuyazwe, a Engcobo-born singer who exudes the fusion of themed ukombela and Afro-jazz delivered in Xhosa folk music rhythms. KEANETSE MOKHOTHU hailed the maestro and maestra across the pond before their crossover from the shores of East London.

KM: Songbird, what is ukombela?

Ne-ahtyah: Ukombela is a Xhosa traditional singing technique. Its foundation is what I refer to as “truth,” a component that encourages life and living. I strive to inspire hope and spread peace in a hopeless world through my music. I also contribute more as a jazz vocalist and academic, addressing issues of appreciation, inclusivity, representation, identity, and

Vocalist Ne-ahtyah. Photo: Litha Mpiyakhe
Vocalist Ne-ahtyah. Photo: Litha Mpiyakhe

KM: What do you believe the future holds for this special SA jazz subgenre – should it evolve or remain as is.

Ne-ahtyah: I feel this style has a future, and  believe that music always finds its way to continuity and expansion. It is not a process that one can control. South African jazz and its subgenres, have recently grown in popularity, thanks to those who came before us. Those who played a big role in raising a new generation of creatives who are constantly learning and innovating – and so this in turn creates many possibilities for and within this genre.

KM: Which roles would various industry players need to play in order to ensure that this specific movement of music remains?

Zuko: I do not think it is for us to decide what should happen with music. We did not create it. It picked us up. We are just channels to let it through. So, if we evolve, it will be there with us as a reflection of those times.

KM: The assembly of an ensemble – please share the traits you look out for in each member?

Ne-ahtyah: I have had the privilege of working with seasoned musicians who always
take their craft seriously, to the point where we always maintain good relations. So, it is important for me to play with musicians who, first and foremost, take themselves seriously and can work collaboratively in a respectful manner, as well as assist in the production of music.

KM: Albums in the pipeline – what are they looking and sounding like?

Zuko: Yes, we are in the process of recording our music. People should anticipate albums that mirror our traditional and cultural sensibilities. Above all, it will be letters speaking through our journeys and experiences.

Zuko Yigi. Photo: Lynton Court
Zuko Yigi. Photo: Lynton Court

Zuko Yigi & Ne-ahtyah live in Cape Town

At Selective Live
– Zuko Yigi & Ne-ahtyah
Emandulo Silent Concert & Jazz Umcimbi, A sonic dialogue in the Cape
Saturday,  11 November 2023, 6pm
189 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town
Tickets Quicket

– Ne-ahtyah
Emandulo Silent Concert
Saturday,  11 November 2023, 7pm
189 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town
Tickets Quicket

– Zuko Yigi
Jazz Umcimbi, A sonic dialogue in the Cape
Saturday,  11 November 2023, 9pm
189 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town
Tickets Quicket

Who: Zuko Yigi, Ne-ahtyah Mbuyazwe
Facebook: Uzuko Yigi, Neahtyah Zintle Mbuyazwe
Instagram: Zuko Yigi, Neahtyah