Taking it personally
24 July 2012 | SIBUSISO MKWANAZI
Jazz pianist, composer and teacher, Andile Yenana has stayed away from vocal jazz for a number of years, but for the Standard Bank Road to Joy of Jazz concert, he has reconsidered his stance on the sub-genre.
“Language – and subsequently vocals in music – is sometimes used to group people into certain classes because of the language they sing in, the audience that should listen to them and who should not listen to them,” says Yenana.
“This is what I have tried to avoid so far.”
Does he think that this has changed, prompting him to collaborate with vocalists for the concert?
“It is more about longevity than anything else, and that is why I have decided to collaborate with the likes of Siya Makhuzeni, a talented singer, composer and trombonist,” he continues.
“I am at a point in my life where I want my jazz legacy to be passed on to the young ones who can
carry on where I left off, and Siya is one of the musicians I have entrusted with this.”
Yenana also sees jazz as a bridge between the young and the more experienced music professionals, but he also has a few qualms that he is more than ready to express, given the chance.
“I found myself not being able to resist working with young people who were using the jazz medium to express their ideas on how to carry through this common love of jazz music.
“But what irks me the most are people that claim jazz is for old people and is not relevant to anyone else. These are the very same people who come up with trendy terms like ‘jazzy house’ and who are willing to pounce and make a quick buck using jazz, but when it comes to formalising things – that they are actually part of the jazz crowd – then all of a sudden it is for old people,” he says, not looking impressed at all.
It makes sense why Yenana takes this matter so seriously, as he is also a jazz teacher and is very protective of a genre that has been his life for so long.
“Another reason why I have decided to finally delve into vocal jazz is the impact that this music has on these young people. For them, it is not only a form of entertainment, but also a career.”
Being a native of the Cape, he makes an example with the Minstrels.
“You have kids that start off by being part of the Cape Minstrels band, but they come to the realisation that music can support not only them, but their families too.
“This also encourages them to take music further by pursuing a music degree or something that will enhance talents that they already possess,” he points out.
Yenana goes on to further state that even though he is an integral part of teaching students about jazz, the music itself plays a more critical role.
“Jazz can be used as a gateway to learning about music as a whole, as learners cannot simply take a chance and hope for quick returns.
They have to study about the history of jazz, learn how to read music and how to play a number of instruments. After only that can they call themselves jazz artists and take what they have learnt further,” he concludes.
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