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Confluences Music

“In Motion Revisited: The African Renaissance” by Vuma Levin, Théo Duboule, Martin Perret, Matthias Spillmann & Marco Zenini [Basel]

This project is supported through the Confluences open call, aimed at supporting a shared space for collaboration, creation, and documentation of new work between musicians who have an existing creative relationship.

“In Motion Revisited: The African Renaissance” reprises the collaboration of composers and guitarists Vuma Levin from South Africa and Swiss-born Théo Duboule. Together with Swiss musicians Martin Perret on drums and Matthias Spillmann on trumpet and Italian bassist Marco Zenini, the project aims to create dialogues between folkloric musics of Swiss and South African origin from pre and the early colonial period.

From 7-15 July 2023, the five artists gathered at Musikerwohnhaus in Basel for an intensive week of collaboration. For this project, the artists transcribed and analysed field recordings of traditional Nguni-Sotho musics captured in the early 20th century, and several 16th century madrigals that were translated into German by the Swiss physician Felix Platte.

The artists extracted motives from the madrigals as the basis for re-compositions, developed by with reference to rhythmic, harmonic, melodic and textural practices consistent with traditional indigenous South African musics and several strands of black American music. Vuma explains that “in reading supposed ‘high’ interpretations of European folklore traditions (madrigals) through the lens of traditional indigenous praxis, we hope to subvert the colonially inherited tendency to view black African historical practices through the lens of European epistemologies, reimagining the ‘renaissance’ from the global south.” They composed and recorded 10 songs that will be edited, mixed and mastered.

The roots of this collaboration stem from several Pro Helvetia-supported tours, residencies and performances in which the five artists have connected and collaborated in various capacities.

The project emerges from Vuma and Théo’s In Motion collaboration, established during Vuma’s 2018 residency in Basel at the Musikerwohnhaus. Drawing from historically significant, traditional and urban syncretic South African musical forms, they recorded and released an album which toured in South Africa in November 2018, and in Switzerland in 2019 with an expanded ensemble including drums and saxophone.

Vuma’s relationship with Matthias originates in their collaboration at the Mzansi Jazz Encounters during his residency in Switzerland. Subsequently, Matthias toured with Vuma’s European band in September 2019 and is featured on Vuma’s upcoming 2023 release. This project premiered at the 2022 Makhanda Jazz Festival with two performances. In 2021 Martin undertook a residency in South Africa where he met and collaborated with Vuma, resulting in the recording of an as yet unreleased album.

Matthias and Martin each bring invaluable contributions to the current collaboration: Matthias his abilities as a composer, classical music education as well as his embodiment of Swiss German brass and improvised traditions, and Martin his experiments with electronics and desire to explore non-western conceptions of rhythm and time.


Matthias Spillmann started playing the trumpet with the local wind band at the age of 11. He turned to Jazz via the work of Miles, Kenny Dorham, Tom Harrell and Gil Evans. At the age of 19 he decided to make music his career. He studied at the Swiss Jazz School and the New School in New York City. His teachers included the Belgium trumpeter Bert Joris as well as Jimmy Owens, Richie Beirach, Ed Neumeister and Reggie Workman. He has performed in numerous venues in Europe, Asia and America, among others the International Jazz Festivals of Lugano, Schaffhausen, Willisau, Montreux, Cully, Makanda (South Africa), Baku (Azerbaijan), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Izmir (Turkey), as well as the 24th and 25th Annual IAJE Conferences in New York and Chicago.

Vuma Levin is a recording musician and lecturer in music at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has a National Diploma from the Tshwane University of Technology and a Masters Degree from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. To date, he has recorded four albums, won several awards and performed with some of the top musicians in South Africa and internationally, including performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Cape Town Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival. He has been awarded a Pro Helvetia residency in Basel and is the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz.

Théo Duboule is a Swiss guitar player based in Berlin. He has shared the stage with musicians such as Ohad Talmor, Jorge Rossy, David Virelles, Scott Robinson, Matthieu Michel, Banz Oester, Colin Vallon, Gerry Hemingway, and Arthur Hnatek. His main projects are OGGY & the Phonics, the BIG TUSK, Théo Duboule 4tet, Sizzling Inn, In Motion (with Vuma Levin), Mega Mass, as well as his electronic music solo project Mr Wizzel. Theo has performed on Swiss and international stages (Marciac, AMR, Cully, Theater am Gleis, JazzClub Uster, Musig-im-Ochsen, Rdv de l’Erdre, Petit Journal Montparnasse, L’Improviste, Budapest Music Center, Sunset/Sunside, Pannonica)

Martin Perret is a drummer, composer, educator, and band leader for L’Anderer. L’Anderer is a musical project that fluctuates its sound in accordance with its rotating constellation of musicians. What remains consistent through each iteration is the drive and energy to integrate the strength and talents of the performers in Martin’s compositions. Martin is a dynamic participant in the creative and avant-garde contemporary music scene, having collaborated with a broad range of artists: French actresses and theatre directors Claire Deutsch, Isabelle Vesseron and Lola Giouse; Swedish saxophone player Otis Sandsjö, Dutch-French horn player Morris Kliphuis, Swiss guitar player Franz Hellmüller, piano player Marie Krüttli; and film directors Adrien Barazzone and Roman Hüben.

Marco Zenini was born in Rome and has been playing electric and double bass in a wide variety of musical environments for 20 years. After obtaining a degree in classical music in Italy, he moved to Amsterdam in 2010 to study at the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam, where he completed a Master’s degree in Jazz Double Bass in 2015. In the same year he won the prize as best bass player during the “B-Jazz International Jazz Contest”. Over the years, Marco’s intense involvement with live performance has led him to travel and play extensively in major venues and festivals throughout Europe, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, and India. He appears in more than 30 recordings as sideman; in 2018 he published “Brighter Times
Ahead”, his debut album as a band leader, where he merges contemporary jazz and contemporary classical music with elements of Italian folk music. In the same year he published “Lost in the Archive Valley”, the first album of the co-led folk band Archive Valley, a trio who draw from the repertoire of Old-Time music. In 2014 he began collaborating as Head of the Bass Department with the True School of Music in
Mumbai and in 2018 he covered the role of main subject teacher for the bass courses at the Conservatory “Fausto Torrefranca” in Vibo Valentia. Since 2019 he teaches at iMusic School in Rome, where he’s currently based.