Zulu Feng Shui


Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting

So I have been thinking quite intensely about how we set up on stage as a band and ultimately how the bandstand could be perceived as a sacred space. Some of the questions are: what informs our stage layout, how is this space shared with the fellow musicians, the audience and our ‘shadows’ in another dimension (umlozi)? I also thought a bit about how sound travels when we project through our instruments respectively. Through these questions some of our ‘standard’ stage layouts sort of made sense when I thought of it more on this sonic plane but what really inspires us is another question. I may also be very biased in this because my thoughts are based on what I know about our instruments and how they produce sound but there is more to sound than that.

These thoughts came when I was trying to visualize the whole ‘iKhambi’ group (The Cure Collective) which is an embellished/augmented jazz configuration with five drummers, six singers, four horns, a harp plus a rhythm section. It wasn’t difficult achieving this sound in studio because of all the technology that is available to us but I have a dream of taking it on stage and it’s of course challenging to imagine all of this in a ‘bandstand’ in some jazz club not unless we collectively allow ourselves to re-imagine performance spaces.

Perhaps the main reasons for my questioning arise from a place where I’m constantly trying contextualize what I was taught at school, some of my personal observations and some of what I’ve grown to understand through my journey as a musician versus some of the patterns I absorbed organically in my upbringing whereby it wasn’t toilsome to share spaces no matter how small or big, it simply happened organically. I recall everything almost happening in a circular manner, from our traditional dances, gatherings, rituals and even as far as some of the architecture especially in rural areas people still lived in huts. There are a lot of other examples we can think of and find similar patterns. I want to believe there was some level of consciousness to this and some significance to these geometric structures, I think that to a certain extent it helped the artist, people and communities focus and think in a particular way often a healthy way.

What I’m eventually hoping to get to is finding a way of incorporating some of this thinking into our compositional layout of the stage with a belief that this can encourage and improve our concentration levels during a spontaneous creative journey and promote a more communal approach to our playing. I later want to imagine the bandstand in the same way I think of ‘umsamu’ or an altar (a place of focus during a ritual) where all our energies are centered and in this way also elevating the role of an audience to that of a participator during a performance/ritual.

I am simply looking for a new/old ways of sharing and presenting concerts/rituals that borrows attributes from our forefathers. Soon it will make sense

Nduduzo Makhathini

3 thoughts on “Zulu Feng Shui

  1. QB wrote: QB Smith These are important thoughts. Would u not incorporate mbira for similar reasons? Take out trumpet as it is a war device. Rhodes ep in contrast was built specially to heal. Flute is as ancient and African as it gets. Carry on conceiving and designing the circular, engaging space and event dynamic, makes great sense, care of every aspect, the result will be profound, felt.


  2. Eddie Parker wrote: Eddie Parker For a long time I’ve liked “informal” gigs amongst friends, rather than “proper” gigs on stage with the seated audience out front. I like the “in the round” set up, the idea of the audience surrounding the players. I’ve wanted to do the type of thing you might be implying here with audience among the players, breaking down the barriers for ages. Difficult with speakers, though… they point outwards.


  3. Menzi Maseko wrote: Even at the Institute of Afrikology there has been some contestation regarding an Umsamu ohambayo noma indawo engumfanekiso woMsamo kepha ibe isendaweni esetshenziswa ngabantu bonke. For an example our first sacred space was the BAT Centre Resource Centre /Library which doubled as my office but we had bowls of incense etc which i would burn ekuseni and sometimes ebusuku if I am working late.The point was to give the space of Knowledge sharing that Ambiance of Sanctity while making it welcoming …but how public can the esoteric be?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s