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Bokani Dyer: African Piano

Seton Hawkins By

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AAJ: This idea of the African Piano is fascinating, given how rich the level of piano innovation has been throughout South Africa's Jazz history. People like Abdullah, Bheki, and Tete Mbambisa, but also some of your contemporaries like Kyle Shepherd, Afrika Mkhize, and Thandi Ntuli. They're all great innovators, but also all very distinct in their playing.

BD: Yeah, I don't know what it is. Piano is a special instrument, though I think there are innovators on every instrument. A lot of African music comes from the drums, and I feel there are a lot of innovators of drums as well, who have their own signature touch.

I think that with every instrument played by South African musicians, if you look at the lineage, you will see that there is a lot of innovation. But I guess with the piano being what it is, a half-melodic/half-rhythmic instrument, maybe it's more apparent. Maybe it's an instrument where you can see the individuality or the uniqueness the most. When you're playing African percussion, there has been less cross-pollination so the innovation may seem less apparent. But now if you have that rhythmic consciousness, getting onto the piano, which also the potential for a rhythmic interpretation while also having the melodic aspect, you can bring out a unique sound and communicate a lot through the piano.

AAJ: You mentioned this idea of the African Piano project, but is the trio going to remain a primary vehicle for you in the near future?

BD: For sure. For now I'm very happy with the trio. Maybe next year, we can look at doing another record. But this is the first time in my career where I've had the luxury or the privilege of having a working band that stays constant for an extended period of time. It feels like it goes from strength to strength, and the music is very instinctive and natural. I'd like to keep that alive for as long as possible.

Selected Discography

Mirrors, Bokani Dyer, (Dyertribe Music, 2010)
Emancipate the Story, Bokani Dyer, (Dyertribe Music, 2011)
Ubuntu Music, Steve Dyer, (Dyertribe Music, 2012)
World Music, Bokani Dyer, (Dyertribe Music, 2015)
Iyonde, Sisonke Xonti, (Iyonde Music, 2017)
Neo Native, Bokani Dyer Trio, (Dyertribe Music, 2018)

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Neo Native

Neo Native

Self Produced
2018

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World Music

World Music

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2016

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