By: Pamela Mkhize

South African-born trumpeter Ndabo Zulu (26) who is based in Norway, where he is studying Music is back in the motherland for his summer break. SA Blogger’s Pamela Mkhize had a chat with this young jazz cat who’s flying the SA flag so high and has been a busy-bee ever since he landed.

PHOTO CRED: Hugh Mdlalose

Zulu grew up in Chesterville, Durban where he began his musical journey at the mere age of 10-years and has not looked back ever since. He tells SA Bloggers that he’s been accepted to do his Masters at one of the best music conservatories in Norway, the Norwegian Music Academy in Oslo.

“I’m unfortunately not back for good, it is summer break and I usually come back to South Africa during this period of the year. I’m back here for a few performances and to start coordinating some dates and schedule everything with Nduduzo Makhathini for my Master’s program that is based in both Norway and South Africa,” says Zulu.  

We did mention that Zulu has been busy ever since he touched home ground, “On the first week upon my arrival I was so fortunate to do a duo gig with Nduduzo Makhathini at the radio 702 studios, and I also played with the great Herbie Tsoaeli with his Sandi ensemble assembly at the Orbit and the African Freedom station. I will be playing my music with my sextet tonight in Durban at the Chairman and I was lucky enough to be invited again by Bra Herbie Tsoaeli to play with him at the Soweto Theatre on the 29th of July and on the 30th.”

“I was so fortunate to be granted a space to perform my music but most importantly that I have a great band to do that with. The band I am playing with is a dream team. It’s Linda Sikhakhane on Saxophones, Keenan Ahrends on Guitar, Sanele Phakathi on Piano, Benjamin Jephta on Bass and Sphelelo Mazibuko on Drums now tell me that’s not a dream team.”

One thing that keeps him on his toes is the love and calling of what he does. Having been away from home since 2013, this youngster says he is still trying to make his mark, “I’m not sure if I can put a finger on the growth I have accumulated over the years, I just work and hope there is growth in the process. I am not at all there and I don’t think there is ever anyone who is “there”. There are always new goals and new challenges to overcome,” he chuckles.

Apart from a number of achievements under his sleeve, Zulu has been chosen to represent the Norwegian Music Academy at the prestigious ParmaJazz Frontiere Festival in Italy, “It’s such a great honour to be part of the festival again, but this time representing a different university but what is so humbling about this is that all of this happened before I even started at the school. I will be representing Norway and also raise the South African flag in the meantime.”

He told SA Bloggers how every achievement is important to him, “To me, all achievements are important in different ways as they all lead to different portals that lead to the same goal which is to be a better person every day.”

In life, we all have people who push us to be better versions of yourself, for Zulu that one person who inspires him has to be a renowned pianist, Nduduzo Makhathini.

“Wow! Well, I have a lot of people I look up to but the one that inspires me is Nduduzo Makhathini. His work ethic and morals are what I would like to have. But most importantly, he is very true to himself and his craft,” said Zulu.

On top of his list about what he loves most about being home had to be the people, “The love and warmth from all the people, to see the SA jazz scene growing so fast and to be with my family of course.”

SA Bloggers spoke future plans and asked Zulu where he sees himself in the next 5 years, “I hope I’ll be done studying then and have released at least 2 records under my name. I hope at that time I would have gotten enough exposure to playing with all the people that inspired the musician I am today,” he said.

He continued to say that he hopes that his spiritual level would have grown into a sense that he could understand himself and his craft better and that he can stay true to both these things.