Groovy Blues: Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble (UJE)

South Africa is a country with multiple cultures and stories, and thanks to the end of formalised racial discrimination, Black people’s stories can be shared on mainstream platforms. The Sagiya Foundation and its partners made it possible for the UMkhumbane Jazz Ensemble (UJE) to share stories of their beloved home through music. I had a chat with Sagiya’s CEO — who’s also the band’s drummer — Mr. Atlas Duma about the band’s upcoming album — “Ezintabeni”, Jazz and history.

The people of UMkhumbane endearingly called the area, Ezintabeni due to the “uneven landscapes” that housed informal settlements occupied by people of all races. The unification of races, and cultures made it possible for the members of the band to tap into a broad landscape of memories when creating their debut album. Mr. Duma is certain that every music lover will love UJE’s album, because they are what, “Jazz is all about.” And they craft music that connects with inner spirits and supernatural powers. Every member of the 11-piece band had a hand in crafting at least one of the album’s 13 compositions.

UJE has more than a century of musical experience between them, the number of years of musical prowess shoots up even further when you factor in the 13 featured musicians who held the band’s hand in the creation process. UJE has been giving out great vibes and grooves for such a long time that playing has become more of a reflex than a task. That has not stopped the band from seeking newer and more exciting ways to bring their stories across, they have never stopped practicing, and they never will — that’s what makes them special according to Mr. Duma.

Music is much more than a sensory experience, it can be used to advance all types of ideologies, UJE’s philosophy is centered on the conservation of, “African music culture and heritage”. The band is a glowing sign for resilience with regards to pursuing your dreams — just think about how long they’ve been playing without releasing an album. The album will be available for sale via conventional music outlets and on iTunes by the end of March, 2017.

  • This is part 1 of a two-part series.
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