[PROFILE] Siyavuya Makuzeni is a trombone player, vocalist, lyricist and songwriter well known for her uniquely experimental, edgy yet pure intonation. Born in 1982 in the Eastern Cape, Makuzeni grew up singing in the choir and playing recorder before picking up the trombone while at Sterling High School in East London. ‘The influence of Xhosa music and jazz is the foundation of my musical beginnings, and has helped me to shape my own voice or individual expression,’ she told Struan Douglas in The Story of South African Jazz.
Her genre-busting style is influenced by drum and bass, hip hop, traditional Xhosa music and electronica. She uses vocal pedals to manipulate her voice, creating soundscapes and backing loops in her live performances.
Throughout high school, Makuzeni participated in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, an annual programme at the National Arts Festival that sees South Africa’s jazz students vying for a spot in the Festival’s top bands: the National School’s Big Band, the National Youth Big Band and, ultimately, the National Youth Jazz Band. Siya was consecutively selected for all three categories, recording with the National Youth Jazz Band in 2001. She also featured in Zim Ngqawana’s Big Band tour to East London in 1999, and played for the East Cape Big Band for a few years.
Knowing that she was destined to follow a creative path, she enrolled to study music and drama at Rhodes University in 2000, before deciding to focus on music at Pretoria Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology) with a BMus Jazz degree.
Makuzeni regularly collaborates with South African musicial royalty, including Marcus Wyatt. They first met in Grahamstown when Makuzeni was a teenager and have collaborated regularly ever since – most recently on Maji Maji – In The Land Of Milk and Honey, the new album from Wyatt’s SA jazz collective, Language 12. In a review of the ‘intellectually stimulating’ album for the M&G,Makuzeni is described as ‘a majestic vocalist, rich in tone, expansive in range, and wise in interpretation’.
A session musician and voice-over artist when not performing live, Makuzeni has lent her songwriting skills to albums by well-known artists. She has performed with Carlo Mombelli’s Prisoners of Strange, worked with Themba Mkhize, McCoy Mrubata, Frank Opperman, Wendy Oldfield, Tlale Makhene, Khaya Mahlangu, Sibongile Khumalo and many others. Her live collaborations include performances with William Kentridge and Phillip Miller in Dancing with Dada. To top it all, she is also a band leader of her own experimental rock band, IppYFuz.
‘Siya’s singing is lyrical and inventive,’ Douglas writes. ‘From the highest pitched to low, soothing notes, she adds a touch of sophistication to any melody, while her scatting is adventurous.’
Makuzeni tours extensively, featuring in the line-up of some of the world’s biggest jazz events, from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to the Stockholm Jazz Festival. In 2005, she was awarded a grant to attend Fabrica Musica, Benetton Foundation’s ‘applied creativity laboratory’ just outside Treviso in Italy. The experience culminated with a multimedia theatre concert in Brisbane, Australia, a year later.
NOTES TO EDITORS
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
The National Arts Festival, now in its 42nd year, has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in Southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.
ABOUT THE STANDARD BANK YOUNG ARTIST AWARDS
The National Arts Festival established the Young Artist Awards in 1981 to acknowledge emerging young South African artists who demonstrate an outstanding artistic talent. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines – dance, jazz, music, theatre, visual art, performance art and film – affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and has presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 31-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the Main Programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.
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