Congratulations to pianist Sibu Mash Mashiloane, who on the evening of 24 November in Accra, Ghana, won the AFRIMA (All-Africa Music) Award for Best Artist, African Jazz for his track Niza, from Mashiloane’s 2017 second album Rotha – A Tribute to Mama (https://soundcloud.com/sibusisomashmashiloane/sets/rotha ). Coincidentally, Mashiloane has recently released his third album, Closer to Home ( http://www.sibumash.com/music.html ) and will be appearing at Johannesburg’s Orbit this weekend.
Mashiloane is currently based at UKZN, where he teaches, gained his masters in jazz performance, and is currently working towards a doctorate on the identity of African jazz. Closer to Home comprises a baker’s dozen of short – sometimes, frustratingly short – tracks, including both originals and tributes to Miles, Coltrane, Winston Mankunku and Moses Taiwa Molelekwa. Although the pianist credits masters such as both Coltrane and Busi Mhlongo as influences, it is of Molelekwa that Mashiloane’s approach most often stirs up memories. He has a similar ear for an appealing theme, and gift for surprising transitions of tempo and texture, as well as an interest in negotiating between tricky traditional rhythms, classic jazz, and modern pop. And – it should go without saying – he has more than ample keyboard skill to paint this distinctive soundscape. The reworked Molelekwa Spirit illustrates just how much common ground exists between the two musicians. There’s beautiful support from the album’s co-players, particularly percussion throughout from Tlale Makhene, and on Zwelihle Mawande Kunene’s composition Madosini there’s a gorgeous solo firmly in the Mankunku/Trane tradition from reedman Mthunzi Mvubu.
Mashiloane’s own revisioning of Yakhal’inkomo, which takes it to a bluesy church space, manages to be both refreshing and thought-provoking, and I wished it had lasted longer than four minutes-odd. Mashiloane has his own strong vision for the music; he’s genuinely an original voice, not just an entertaining piano-player. Hopefully, album number four – and there has to be one – will see him relaxing more into longer tracks and leaner arrangements where we get a chance to hear his intriguing tunes breathe, and his intelligent playing really stretch out.