The pianist at the cutting edge of our jazz revival


Jazz is always evolving. It’s vibrant and varied, incorporating unexpected mixes of sound that change with the times. And South Africa’s youth is at the forefront of our jazz revival and reimagining. In particular, young women are breaking the musical mould. Nobuhle Mazinyane is one of them. Jazz may be a tough industry to crack, but the pianist has put her heart and soul into showing the country what she’s made of.

With a saxophonist and music teacher for a mother, jazz has always been the soundtrack to Mazinyane’s life. “We have our own stories, our own heritage, our own traditions,” she says. “Our music is so powerful.” The budding musician found her footing as a member of The Little Giants. The collective was established in 1999, and has used jazz ever since to bring together youth from the townships and suburbs of Cape Town. “Jazz never stands still,” Mazinyane says. Neither does she. In 2016, she performed at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival as a member of the National Schools Band. The pianist is now developing her repertoire, playing in one band after the other as part of The Language of Being, The Swing Collective, Astrafunk and The Space Cats, and the Nobuhle Mazinyane Ensemble.

This year, the Cape Town Fringe Festival recognised Mazinyane with a Cape Town Fringe FRESH Award nomination. “My dream of being able to say I am a musician is finally true,” Mazinyane says. But this is just the beginning of her career. While South Africa’s history has been represented by jazz greats such as Abdullah Ibrahim and the late Hugh Masekela, Mazinyane believes that a new crop of musicians are ready to take local jazz into the future. “There are many young people who are so innovative as musicians,” Mazinyane says. “I’d love to inspire young people, especially the females, just to pick up an instrument and fall in love with music because you never know, it could take you around the world.”