Music has been the mission of Jazz pianist Andile Yenana's life since he was born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape in 1968. His father’s house music memories helped inspire his music career. "Already, around nine, my old man had opened my eyes to the world of the arts. Because of that heritage, there's no way I could be older in this genre of jazz." When he began learning piano, it was with a mission. "When I picked up that instrument in Zwelitsha Township, it was to play jazz."
Andile did his B. Mus studies under Darius Brubeck at the University of Natal, Durban's pioneering School of Jazz and Popular Music. There, he discovered the professional music scene around Durban's clubs, and struck up a firm friendship with two other highly focused music students, saxophonist Zim Ngqawana and trumpeter Feya Faku.
The friendship with Ngqawana turned into a (so far) 11-year gig, when Andile moved to Johannesburg and joined the reedman's quartet. Though the personnel around them has changed over the years, the tough teamwork between sax and piano has endured through all five of Ngqawana's albums, starting with San Song, recorded during an exchange visit to Norway in 1996.
But right from the start, Andile's career has involved a range of projects and collaborations that have taken him far beyond the conventional jazz small group. He collaborated with saxophonist Steve Dyer and other musicians on pan-African music projects under the title Mahube. He has acted as arranger for vocalists Sibongile Khumalo, Gloria Bosman and Suthukazi Arosi among others, and produced albums for other instrumentalists. He has also played in the Afro-pop band of guitarist Louis Mhlanga.
In 1996, Andile and Zim visited the US as part of Black History Month, the first of three visits to Chicago, he also played with Zim in the UK as part of a well-reviewed 1997 collaboration project that performed at the Royal Albert Hall, and at the Nantes Fin de Siecle festival in France. From the late 1990s, his other main project was the band Voice, a collaboration with Sydney Mnisi, Marcus Wyatt, Herbie Tsoaeli and drummers Lulu Gontsana and Morabo Morajele.
He has done other work, too, contributing to the score of the Aids documentary "Shouting Silent", and even acting as music director for a TV game show Lilizela Mlilizeli.
In 2002 he released his debut album, We Used To Dance. Like the Voice albums, We Used To Dance featured original music (from Yenana and Mnisi) alongside works from the canon created by the fathers of South African jazz, such as Johnny Dyani and Dudu Pukwana.