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Zim Ngqawana

Zim Ngqawana has been hailed by Johannesburg's leading daily paper, The Star, as "The most visible, hardest working younger man in jazz." He is one of the new generation of South African musicians who are taking a fresh look at South Africa's jazz and traditional music heritage. Zim made his mark at the historic Inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in 1994, where he directed the 100 person 'Drums for Peace Ochestra', led an elite group of 12 Presidential drummers and featured as a solo saxophonist.

This recognition came after a late start and some tough struggles. Born in 1959 in Port Elizabeth (in South Africa's Eastern Cape), Zim was the youngest of five children who started playing flute at the age of 21. Although Zim was forced to drop out of school before completing university entrance requirements, his prowess won him a place at Rhodes University. He later went on to study for a diploma in Jazz Studies at the University of Natal.

Working with the University's ensemble, 'The Jazzanians', he attended International Association of Jazz Educators Convention in the United States and was offered scholarships to the Max Roach / Wynton Marsalis jazz workshop and subsequently a Max Roach scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, where he studied with jazz legends Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef.

Since his return to South Africa in the 1990's, he has worked in the bands of veteran greats like Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela. He has also developed much time and effort into building up a number of small and large combos from the conventional quartet/quintet including his eight-piece band 'Ingoma' through to the 'Drums for Peace Orchestra'.

Zim is committed to developing and creating an audience for new South African jazz, his music draws on influences ranging from South Africa's folk and rural traditions to Indian and western classical music and the avant-garde. Grounded in his South African roots, the music is strongly percussive, improvisational and highly danceable.

For this reason, theatre and dance companies have been drawn into his music. Zim directed a quintet and composed several new pieces for the Free Flight Dance Company during their world premiere. Subsequently, he was invited to accompany the Moving into Dance Company on their European tour as principal percussionist. He has made several festival appearances in South Africa, and in 1993 he appeared as the guest artist with Paul van Kemenade and his ensemble at the Tilburg Festival in front of a large and enthusiastic Dutch audience.

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Zim Ngqawana: Sound, Song, and Humanity

Read "Zim Ngqawana: Sound, Song, and Humanity" reviewed by AAJ Staff

(Ed. note: we're celebrating the life and music of Zim Ngqawana by reprinting this 2002 interview. Ngqawana passed away in Johannesburg, after suffering a stroke on May 10th. He was 52.) For Zim Ngqawana, citizenship is a relative concept. He may be a South African, but he insists that he is first and foremost a citizen of humanity. The 42 year old saxophonist and composer makes a distinctive kind of music which draws heavily from the jazz tradition--yet ...

Book Review

Gwen Ansell: Soweto Blues

Read "Gwen Ansell: Soweto Blues" reviewed by Seton Hawkins

Gwen Ansell Soweto Blues Continuum ISBN 0826416624 350 pages 2004 Gwen Ansell's Soweto Blues is the book South African jazz lovers have been praying for. Originally conceived as a radio show entitled “Ubuyile, the book is the result of over 80 hours of interviews with multiple generations of South African jazz artists; from earlier pioneers of the style to the new artists; from the exiled musicians to ...

Album Review

Zim Ngqawana: Vadzimu

Read "Vadzimu" reviewed by AAJ Staff

Zim Ngqawana has a penchant for naming records after himself. The South African saxophonist followed up his first record, 1998's Zimology, with Zimphonic Suites in 2001. Nothing wrong with a little creative word play, for sure, especially from a man who honestly has little interest in self-promotion or glory. He seems to be using these titles to formally integrate himself into the music. Maybe they sell records too... who knows. Who cares.

Now Vadzimu takes the same idea ...

Album Review

Zim Ngqawana: Zimphonic Suites

Read "Zimphonic Suites" reviewed by Javier AQ Ortiz

At 20 years of age, Zimasile Ngqawana, did not know how to play a flute, a saxophone or a piano. At 42, he is a well-rounded multi-instrumentalist with plenty of upper crust jazz education and exposure to renowned characters such as Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, and Abdullah Ibrahim, as well as transcontinental tours. After a few previous successful albums, he is now a prominent and promising jazzist offering Zimphonic Suites to the public while reaping various accolades for this impressive ...

Album Review

Zim Ngqawana: Zimphonic Suites

Read "Zimphonic Suites" reviewed by AAJ Staff

You can take the jazz out of Africa, but you can't take the Africa out of the jazz. From the opening notes, South African saxophonist/flutist Zim Ngqawana's third disc as a leader coveys a sense of revelation and discovery. Zimphonic Suites organizes itself around five musical capsules, each with its own specific flavor and color. The first suite, “Ingoma Ya Kwantu," aims for a sense of “inner attainment," bridging tribal debts to imperial court music with a Coltrane-like devotional pursuit. ...

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Requiem for Zim Ngqawana (1959-2011)

Requiem for Zim Ngqawana (1959-2011)

Source: Chris Rich

By Thomas Rome From profoundest loss I struggle to speak of the passing of one of the jazz world's most significant personalities of his generation. South African saxophonist Zim Ngqawana, 51, left us far too early last night at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, victim of a stroke. Nowhere do the strikingly parallel cultural identities of South Africa and the United States (our parallel racial ethos, if you like) speak to us more intriguingly than through jazz. If, following the ...



Jazz Genius Zim Ngqawana dies at 52

Jazz Genius Zim Ngqawana dies at 52

Source: Chris Rich

South African musician Zim Ngqawana has died in the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital after suffering a stroke on Monday. He was 52. Manager Ayanda Nhlapo said Ngqawana, who played the flute and saxophone, had been rehearsing at his home in Troyeville for a show at Wits on the weekend when he had the stroke. “I think Zim was extremely insightful and he was very much aware of a lot of things that a lot of people seem not to want ...

Will Boyd





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