Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble led by Bab’Jerry Kunene is an eThekweni-based ensemble of jazz ‘grootmans’ with a deep passion for Irabi jazz. This is a type of jazz influenced by the African-American jazz sound from the 1950s but with its own local style originating from Marabastad in Pretoria. The ensemble comprises of the following musical instruments: two trumpets, five saxophones, a piano, a guitar, bass guitar, drums and a vocalist.
‘We felt like the Irabi jazz style was dwindling into oblivion’, pointed out Bab’Jerry. ‘So, we came up with a project that would put a spotlight back on Irabi jazz as well as expose it to younger musicians’, continued Bab’Jerry. This idea became the Umkhumbane Music Heritage Project.
Younger musicians who were skilled in playing different instruments were invited to audition to form part of the ensemble. ‘To add to that’, said the project manager, Atlas Duma, ‘the project managed to create 77 job opportunities for various artists, technicians and vendors at the concert.’
The ensemble received funding from the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC) through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Project (PESP 3) in 2022. The PESP is a special government initiative geared towards employment creation for artists, creatives, heritage sector workers and cultural workers following the impact of COVID-19 in the sector. The main aim of this funding call is to provide an economic stimulus to support initiatives that create jobs in the creative and cultural sectors.
‘Furthermore’, added Atlas, ‘the project also offered a music business masterclass created to equip younger musicians with information on the business of music.’. The masterclass was divided into two sections. The first section consisted of music development which is composition, improvisation, ensemble, individual instruments and music history with a focus on Irabi jazz. The second part consisted of the business of music including funding raising, copyright, intellectual property and the use of music aggregators such as Spotify and Apple iTunes. The young musicians were also introduced to the different organisations representing musicians in the country. The project concluded with a concert of the original ensemble playing alongside their younger counterparts. The final concert can be watched here.
Details about the Umkhumbane Jazz Ensemble and the music they have produced can be found on http://www.sagiyafoundation.co.za/. For bookings and other inquiries, Atlas Duma can be contacted at email@example.com or on 0813738185