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Lwanda Gogwana: Tradition and Innovation

Seton Hawkins By

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AAJ: He was an amazing artist.

LG: I want to try to be in that lineage some day. It takes time, and there is so much to learn. There are so many things in our faces that distract us. And Jazz is not a genre that pays the bills. But it is the most rewarding and fulfilling in terms of understanding life and human beings, and so it's a genre we need to play.

When I released my first album I thought 'This is it. This is amazing, and this is my best work.' Part of that was the amount of work I put in, but part of it was being young and naïve and thinking it was great and final. Now, I realize everything is a process, and we must always do more and more, and it will tell its story in the future sometime.

As I go forward, I am studying the I-IV-V sound that became the blueprint of South African sound. Songbook Chapter 2 is something I've been thinking about, and I've started drafting some compositions that I want to include.

I've been exploring the story of Nongawuse. She was a Xhosa who, back in the day, was apparently mislead by British colonizers, and she was convinced that she needed to tell the Xhosa people to get rid of their crops and livestock to defeat the British.

AAJ: In doing so, the spirits would sweep the settlers away and replenish the food, right?

LG: Yes, and now Nongqawuse is used as a term used to ridicule things. If you say something that is too good to be true or is basically false, you are speaking a Nongqawuse.

But the story is a mystery, and nobody really knows the truth. So I want to tell her story: she was a young girl at the time, and you have to think about the power to be able to convince a whole nation to get rid of all their riches. I think there's some power in her, and I want to find that power, and explore the story with symphonic instruments and Xhosa instruments. It's Nongqawuse in Wonderland, it's an amazing story.

Selected Discography

Lwanda Gogwana, Chapter 1 (Lwanda Gogwana Music, 2012)
Lwanda Gogwana, Uhadi Synth (Lwanda Gogwana Music, 2016)
McCoy Mrubata, Live at the Market Theatre (Kokoko Music, 2016)

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