2023 South African Music Awards (SAMA) Jazz Nominees Announced

UPDATE 30 October: The 2023 SAMA Awards are now unlikely to happen. As the Times of SA headline states: , “KZN (KwaZulu Natal )MEC (Member of The Executive Council) cancels costly Samas after Ramaphosa reads him riot act ”
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Nicky Schrire writes:

The nominees for the 29th South African Music Awards (SAMAs) – the South African music industry’s awards, have been announced. The awards as a whole speak to the richness of the South African musical landscape. Expected genres like Pop and R&B stand alongside nominations for best Amapiano, Gqom, Afrikaans Contemporary Music, and African Indigenous Faith albums (full listing at link below).

Luckily, there is a jazz category, reflecting some of the best and most interesting South African jazz being created today. Here are the nominees, plus comments and reactions from some of the nominees themselves about receiving their nominations:

The nominees. Clockwise from top left: Linda Sikhakhane by Tseliso Monaheng; Shane Cooper & MABUTA by Bambatha Jones; Thandi Ntuli by Ndumiso Sibanda; Mthunsi Mvubu by Tseliso Monaheng; Nduduzo Makhathini by Roberto Cifarelli.

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Nduduzo MakhathiniIn The Spirit of Ntu

Pianist Nduduzo Makhathini is no stranger to jazz fans the world over. His tenth studio album “In The Spirit of Ntu” is also his second release on the famed Blue Note Records (released in a new partnership with Universal Music South Africa on the newly formed Blue Note Africa imprint). The album sees Pietermaritzburg-born Makhathini pulling his “most foundational cultural Influences into a space where the sounds of the South African landscape are placed at the centre of the nation’s evolving jazz songbook.”

Linda Sikhakhane Isambulu

“Isambulu” (Ropeadope) is the third album from saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane. After initial studies under the late Dr Brian Thusi at Durban’s Siyakhula Music Centre, Sikhakhane won a scholarship to continue studying at the New School in New York City. The title translates from the Zulu to “revelation,” fittingly for an album that Downbeat Magazine says “effectively crosses borders and blurs cultural archetypes to create a brand of neo-Afro-jazz.”

In response to his nomination, Sikhakhane says, “The SAMAs are prestigious and they serve as a great platform for extending your reach as an artist, so it is a great honour to be selected as a nominee amongst these great creatives. These sounds carry narratives that we intend on spreading, so it’s humbling to know that someone is paying attention to these outputs.”

Thandi Ntuli
Blk Elija & The Children of Meroë

Jazz composer, pianist, and vocalist Thandi Ntuli meditates on self-love, forgiveness, and freedom on her third album “Blk Elijah & The Children of Meroë” (Ndlela Music). Born in Soshanguve in Pretoria, Ntuli’s music is often deeply personal (looking at themes of identity) and hugely collaborative. Her recordings have seen her team up with musicians based in Switzerland, the USA, and her native South Africa.

“Every album, I suppose almost like birthing a child, brings with it its own unique set of challenges and lessons in the creation of them,” Ntuli says, reflecting on her nomination for “Blk Elijah & The Children of Meroë.” “These challenges tend to match the blessing that the album will be to me, or what it has come to teach me. I went through a lot of personal challenges whilst working to finish this album, so much so that I couldn’t perform much or do many interviews after releasing the work. In fact, I didn’t want to. It ushered a period of intense spiritual transformation for me and so this nomination feels like some kind of a nod of approval from the Divine saying: well done kid, you did it!”

Mthunzi MvubuThe 1st Gospel

The 1st Gospel” (Ropeadope) is alto saxophonist, flautist, and composer Mthunzi Mvubu’s debut album. Mvubu has worked with some of his country’s top jazz musicians, among them Abdullah Ibrahim, Herbie Tsoaeli, Feya Faku, and Tumi Mogorosi (Mvubu and Mogorosi are also both members of Shabaka & the Ancestors). South African jazz journalist and author Gwen Ansell wrote, “The wait for ‘The 1st Gospel’ has been a long one, but the journey that brought Mvubu here was worth it.” AllMusic agrees, praising Mvubu for being “a canny, imaginative, and democratic bandleader with profound command of both harmonic and rhythmic invention.”

When asked about his reaction to the nomination, Mvubu said, “I’m really elated to get this nomination on my first album as a bandleader. It really puts more wind in this new frontier. In this category we have some of the best musicians in the world, so getting this recognition side by side with them is really special.”

Shane Cooper and MabutaFinish the Sun

Mabuta is a six-piece instrumental band from Johannesburg, South Africa and the brainchild of bassist and electronic musicians Shane Cooper. “Finish The Sun” (Dox Records) is a great example of the group’s sound, which incorporates elements of contemporary jazz, electronic music and world music resulting in a musically nuanced, groove-driven live music experience. Cooper’s work as a bassist has seen him collaborate with pianists Kyle Shepherd and Bokani Dyer, and South African artist William Kentridge.

“I’m very happy to receive the nomination for an album I wrote as a way of seeking joy in a dark time,” writes Cooper. “I was finding solace in groove, and using daily writing in the hot Joburg summer mornings as a form of ritual and therapy.”

NOTE: The 2023 SAMA Awards will take place in KwaZulu-Natal in November 2023. Only albums commercially released between February 1 2022 and April 14 2023 were eligible for 2023 SAMA nominations. The competition is open to musicians/bands who are South African citizens or South African permanent residents.

LINKS: The original news story at
SAMA Music Awards website

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