“The Past is Unpredictable: Only the Future is Certain” is the new project by South African guitarist and composer Vuma Levin, emerging from his receiving the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz 2021. The project brings together a complex mix of influences and musical expertise, including a trio of Swiss instrumentalists – Matthias Spillman [trumpet], Domenic Landolf [Bass Clarinet] and Andreas Tschopp [Trombone] – as well as a Dutch jazz quartet and well-known Dutch arranger and conductor. The project will launch with two performances during the Mahkanda Jazz Festival in the context of the National Arts Festival.
Conceptually and aesthetically, the project utilises South African traditional indigenous musical practices, epistemologies, tropes and instrumentation as its basis. These are reread and reinterpreted through the lens of contemporary South African jazz, popular music, innovations emerging out of the nascent new music, improvised and jazz scenes in Switzerland and the Netherlands and the orchestral dimensions of Western Art music.
The Swiss musicians’ involvement in the project is substantive and builds on collaborations established during Vuma’s residency in 2018 and subsequent tours in Switzerland. Beyond the scope of the project, Matthias, Domenic and Andreas each have long-standing connections to the South African jazz scene through various collaborations and projects. At this year’s festival Matthias returns with his quintet MATS-UP featuring Mbuso Khoza. Domenic has played with various South African musicians including renowned horn player Feya Faku. Andreas is a frequent collaborator in different Swiss-South Africa ensembles, and was supported for a residency in 2016.
Vuma explains the concept and ambitions of “The Past is Unpredictable: Only the Future is Certain”: “The compositions are based on transcriptions and analysis of pre-colonial, traditional Nguni-Sotho choral and gourd bow music. Materials extracted from this process were then combined and recombined with the ecclectiv mix of genres. As a result the instrumentation of the ensemble is entirely novel – traditional South African bow, percussion, vocals and finger piano instruments are placed at the centre of pop, jazz and Western Art music orchestrations taking the listener on a sonic journey that traverses the rural areas and hinterlands of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, the townships of Soweto and Khayelitsha, the jazz theatres of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Basel, Geneva, Bern, Amsterdam and Rotterdam and the classical concert halls dotted throughout the European capitals. By placing South African indigenous epistemologies and praxis at the centre of the works, the project hopes to empower previously marginalised black African identities.”
Vuma Levin (guitar)
Tijn Wybenga (Arranger, Conductor, Netherlands)
Matthias Spillman (Trumpet, Switzerland)
Domenic Landolf (Bass Clarinet, Switzerland)
Andreas Schopp (Trombone, Switzerland)
Pablo (violin, Netherlands)
Oene van Geel (viola, Netherlands)
George Dimitriu (viola, Netherlands)
Pau (cello, Netherlands)
Sisonke Xonti (Saxophone, South Africa)
Bokani Dyer (Piano, South Africa)
Benjamin Jephta (Bass, South Africa)
Jonno Sweetman (Drums, South Africa)
Bernard van Rossum (Saxophone, Netherlands)
Xavi Torres Vicente (Piano, Netherlands)
Marco Zenini (Bass, Italy)
Jeroen Batterink (Drums, Netherlands)