Interview: Renowned trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni tours Cape Town, February 2023- three gigs – Intravinous Wine Lounge and Bar and Gallery South in Muizenberg
|Mandla Mlangeni performs in Cape Town – February 2023 |
~ Intravinous Wine Lounge and Bar
When: February 24 at 8pm- Mandla Mlangeni and the T.R.C
Address: 110 Loop Street, CBD, Cape Town
~Gallery South, Muizenberg
When: February 25 and 26 at 3pm. Feb 25 – with the the Little Giants and Feb 26 – with the TRC
Tickets: R200 one day pass for one concert or R300 for both concerts
Address: 19 Atlantic Road, Muizenberg, Cape Town
Producer: The Cape Town Music Academy (CTMA) https://www.ctma.co.za/
“Music is a powerful tool that brings people together and is catalyst for engagement with a wider community at many a times do have anything in common but find the act of watching and watching live performances fulfilling,” reflects Johannesburg based trumpeter, Mandla Mlangeni, who is touring Cape Town in February 2023. The internationally renowned jazz musician is playing two gigs in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, at Gallery South in Muizenberg and one gig at Intravinous Wine Lounge and Bar in Cape Town’s CBD. The tour is to promote his recently released album, The Future is Now, which features his ensemble band, the T.R.C. [formed in 2008]. The album, he muses is, “a musical conversation”. Mlangeni was the Standard Bank Young Artist Winner (jazz) at the National Arts Festival in 2019 and has received numerous accolades in his multi-faceted career which includes composing Oratorio of A Forgotten Youth, a multi-disciplinary musical project. Mandla Mlangeni’s tour is being presented by The Cape Town Music Academy, which provides a dynamic platform for emerging and veteran creatives. Read on for more about this extraordinary artist, who despite experiencing tremendous personal loss at an early age, has transcended circumstances through his music and he shares the healing with his audiences:
Honouring father’s legacy through music
You have a BMus from UCT but you grew up in Soweto. You experienced loss at an early age. Your father, Bheki Mlangeni, a human rights lawyer, was an activist and involved in politics. He was investigating apartheid hit squads and when you were about 4 and half, you watched him being blown by a parcel bomb. Not only, did you have an absent father, like so many Black men in South Africa, but he was murdered because of his struggles against the Apartheid regime. How did you grow up – with all of that?
Mandla Mlangeni: Growing up, I was constantly reminded of my father’s immense contribution and sacrifice to the liberation. His actions still resonate immensely with the people he encountered throughout his lifetime. His was a struggle for the dignity of his people in a society that considered us third class citizens. I have learnt to live with and embrace the loss by actively honouring his legacy through my music. His story is one that inspires me to be a better person by standing up for what I believe and being resilient in the pursuit for a just and equitable society.
My father’s absence in my life, yes, presented many challenges in my life but it also taught me to work twice as hard and be determined to make every single opportunity work out in my favour.
I have a deep rooted understanding of the socio political struggles that have plagued my people and endeavour not be trapped the pitfalls of victimhood by actively seeking ways to heal myself either by having support system from my family and the people that care about me.
The Future is Now- musical conversation– legacy inherited from those who came before us
The Cape Town tour is to promote your album, The Future Is Now, which features your ensemble, the T.R.C. The lineup is Joshua Klein (drums), Nicholas Williams (bass), Reza Khota (guitar) and you of course, Mandla Mlangeni (trumpet). Please tell us about the album?
Mandla Mlangeni: The Tune Recreation Committee’s, The Future Is Now was released in December 2022 and is meant to be a musical conversation and commentary on the legacy that we have inherited from those who came before us. It brings into focus various influences of music from the African continent particularly the contributions of icons such as uBab’ Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Mam’ Busi Mhlongo and how they shared our stories for the world to bear witness. Our aim was to contribute to the collective sound of the band with each band member submitting an original composition that would be recorded by the ensemble.
In 2023, I am even more determined to share the TRC’s offering with Cape Town as I have not performed with the band in over three years and I am itching to get my boogie down. Cape Town will always hold a special place in my heart and memory as this is the place where I learnt so much about being a musician and learning the tools of the trade.
Weaving a new tapestry by which we are the protagonists of our stories
Can you tell us about the T.RC- the title referencing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Mandla Mlangeni: I deliberately chose the title of TRC, specifically because of the harrowing trauma of witnessing my father’s death as a young boy and subsequent to that was the constant reminder of the atrocities committed under apartheid that were recounted in the testimonies of the victims in the TRC hearings of 1996 to 1998. Those testimonies profoundly shaped my worldview and were etched deeply within my psyche.
The Tune Recreation Committee acts to reclaim that traumatic history by weaving a new tapestry by which we are the protagonists of our stories. It is an audacious act of singing from a new hymn book that we can define ourselves victors overcoming all obstacles and challenges to emerge as the agents of our own change.
Music is a powerful tool that brings people together and is catalyst for engagement with a wider community at many a times do have anything in common but find the act of watching and watching live performances fulfilling. That is the lifeblood of the arts, the audience. Without them we are nothing and that is exactly what we are going to do as the TRC pay ode to those who have kept us going all this time.
For many years the experience of losing my father was buried deep within me and had to find a way to share his legacy. When I started the Tune Recreation Committee in 2008, it was a way of reclaiming my story and identity with like-minded individuals. We all had a keen interest in contributing new stories and finding ways of defining ourselves in the current dispensation that we found ourselves in. Our personal truths came to the fore with the intention of shaping a new common reality and purpose – upliftment of our communities- through music. It is through our own personal journeys and experiences that we could present a genuine sound that was not beholden to what came before -but more as a means of reference -as to where we could take the sound. Hence our aim to recreate and play with the palette of sound.
The call of the trumpet
Do you come from a musically inclined family? Can you tell us about your journey – with jazz- with the trumpet?
Mandla Mlangeni: I have an uncle who is an acclaimed musician by the name of Babsie Mlangeni. So yes, there is music that runs in our family. I did not receive any formal music education until the age of thirteen. I learnt how to sing in the church and school choirs. I picked up recorder at the age of twelve and taught myself how to read music, with some assistance from my 6th grade class teacher. It was only when I got to high school that I learnt how to play trumpet and was taught by uBab Innocent Ngwane, whom we called Meneer. He gave me what term the “bible” of trumpet books called the Aruban Cornet Method. I used that – right up until I auditioned for the National School of Arts.
SIBYA and Oratorio of A Forgotten Youth
You were a SBYA -Standard Bank Young Artist Winner (jazz) at the National Arts Festival 2019. Can you also talk about that and performing as an on-stage trumpeter with Cape Town Opera and your multi-disciplinary musical production, Oratorio of A Forgotten Youth, first staged in 2016 with Cape Town Opera?
Mandla Mlangeni: The SBYA Award was an incredible opportunity that exposed me to a new and wider audience of people whom I had the opportunity to share my music with.
The experience of staging my production Oratorio of A Forgotten Youth at the Artscape Opera with the Cape Town Philharmonic and the Joburg based group Amandla Freedom Ensemble catapulted my ideas to a bigger stage. I was fortunate enough to stage the third iteration of the Oratorio in 2021, but it was against the backdrop of a hard lockdown and the insurrection which almost halted the production completely.
Cape Town Opera opened a new world for me. I was employed as an on-stage trumpeter. It was my gateway to see the world and that where I informally learnt the ropes on how to put a world class production together. All the elements needed to make a production work requires teamwork and vision -to see your work come to fruition. I am forever indebted to Christine Crouse and the CTO for giving the opportunity to be part of many tours of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess.
Oratorio of A Forgotten Youth has had two more iterations since its staging at the Cape Town Opera in 2019. I had the good fortune of staging it in 2019 and it was recently, well received at the Market Theatre in January . As artist-in-residence at the Wits School of Arts, I have plans to also stage it again in the coming months.
Touring and projects in 2023
In addition, to your new album, The Future is Now, with the T.R.C, what else is on the cards for 2023?
Mandla Mlangeni: 2023 promises to be an exciting year. I plan on releasing the Oratorio of A Forgotten Youth in vinyl format and on touring more frequently in and around South Africa. I am also planning on touring internationally. More on that once the agreements are fully in place.
✳ Images supplied.