Cape Town International – Yakhal’Inkomo: Portrait of a Jazz Classic


Portrait_of_a_Jazz_ClassicThe Cape Town International Jazz Festival embraces its literary side, with a public reading and panel discussion led by award-winning arts journalist and poet, Percy Mabandu.

“You think you know me,” ran the title of a composition by the late Mongezi Feza, “but you will never know me.” That is not just true of Feza’s melody, but of many of South Africa’s jazz standards. Today’s listeners may love the tunes, but be unaware of the lives, passions and politics embodied in the notes.

For its 2015 free public event, on the afternoon of Wednesday March 25th, the CTIJF Arts Journalism programme hosts a reflection on the hidden history of another great standard, Yakhal’Inkomo (the bellowing bull): the masterwork of the late Retreat-born saxophonist Winston Mankunku Ngozi.

Percy Mabandu, 2013 BASA/National Arts Festival arts journalist of the year, has been writing about jazz music, arts and the black experience for the last decade. Now, he is completing a book about Mankunku’s iconic recording, Yakhal’Inkomo – Portrait of a Jazz Classic, to be published later this year. At the event, he will present readings from the work, and lead a discussion with other guest panellists – a unique opportunity to engage with an original, rising literary voice about the musician, the music and the process of “writing jazz”.

Yakhal’Inkomo, recorded in the winter of 1968, was the top-selling South African jazz album of its era. Today, it is still known – even by young jazz fans – and has been covered by countless other South African reed players. But it is much more than its notes: “The anthemic title tune has grown to embody both the despair of what it meant to be black at the height of apartheid, and the hope it took to live through darkness of any kind,” says Mabandu.

Mabandu’s book is a monograph that explores the song and the saxophonist who blew it into existence. It locates the man, the artwork and the times that shaped them both. Using everything from personal narratives to high theory, prose and photography Mabandu digs under the skin, deep into all dimensions of his subject. The result is a polished work that is lively, and soulful; informative and challenging. The reading and debate will shine a spotlight on the book. They also aim to inspire other writers to seek out and tell the countless untold stories of South Africa’s jazz greats.

When: Wednesday, 25th March 13:45 – 15:45
Where: The Opera Bar, Opera House, Artscape
Bookings: The event is free but seating is limited

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