By BRUCE DENNILL
Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane has a Masters in Jazz Performance and graduated Cum Laude from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His latest album Amanzi Nemifula: Umkhuleko is a continuation of his previous projects, featuring rearranged and reworked songs both old and new.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I think my biggest influence come from South African composers I grew up listening to, such as Hugh Masekela, Bheki Mseleku, Moses Molelekwa – and of course the traditional music from my village, including Ndebele, maskanda and mbaqanga music.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I am still influenced by these artists, but they are now helping me construct and define my own identity. I am currently researching and analysing the common uniqueness of these composers that I employ in my music.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
Yakhali Nkomo by Winston Mankunku, and Bo Molelekwa by Moses Molelekwa. I recorded my arrangement of both these songs on my album Closer To Home. I, and many others, relate so much with the melodies of these compositions as carriers of South African jazz ingredients, which is what I am mostly fascinated with.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
I love to see people dancing their traditional dances: the downbeat, indlamu kind of dances. So in my arrangements, I leave a space for the listener to partake, which makes every performance a new one. I invite my audience to sing along and I compose melodies that are based on “call and response”.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
The rhythm of the melody is my biggest highlight in a song. I always try to not get in the way of the freedom of a song by avoiding using heavy arrangements and unnecessarily harmonic complications. I allow the music to breathe in its most possible natural form. However, I have noticed that a bassline or groove is mostly what remains after the song has ended. Also, when I listen back to my recordings, I find myself singing the bass pattern.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
An acoustic piano gives me a lot of inspiration, but my Nord piano has done very well for me so far.
What is your most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song or songs, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
My latest album is Amanzi Nemifula: Umkhuleko, which I released in January 2020. After that, I released a single titled Threads Of Hope that was inspired by the Covid-19 Pandemic. The title Umkhuleko came after the studio recording. When I listened back to the music, I realised the way we connected with the music was beyond the physical realm. Therefore it must be coming from a higher power, with the music representing prayer. Amanzi Nemifula represents the special communication between what is above – the clouds – and what is on the ground – the rivers – and how they talk and feed from each other’s wellbeing. Some of the songs on the album are from my previous albums but are now “re-watered” with new energy.