Linda Sikhakhane’s head is tilted back. His eyes are closed. He takes breaths at regular intervals while listening to the playback of a song him and the quartet have just tracked. He opens his eyes momentarily after being nudged, lets off a smile, and goes back to his position of comfort. His saxophone solo continues uninterrupted in the background.
The music is live, red and hot, and all the cats present in studio are vibing. Sphelelo Mazibuko’s shrills on the drumkit bring chills to the spine; heads bop along to his groove-laden embellishments as Sanele Phakathi coats the keys in tones and intonations known to those who’ve seen the yonder. Sakhile Simani’s trumpet licks carry the stories of entire civilizations, aided by El Hadji Ndong’s might on percussion, and cushioned by Nhlanhla Radebe’s hand motions up, down and to the sides of his double bass.
Nduduzo Makhathini, on producer duty throughout the album, suggests alternative approaches, his presence merely a pathway to possibilities, as opposed to a complete take-over of operations. The recording space feels safe as a result, like the perfect place for ideas to be realised; for the music to flourish.
The music on Two Sides, One Mirror stretches over two periods: from when Linda was a university student and earlier, to now, as a working musician thinking about his place in the world; being present in both mind and spirit.
“uBab’ Thus made it possible man, for us. I mean, he’s the guy who introduced me to Coltrane. He gave me records of music,” says Linda of Brian Thusi, the musician, educator who mentored him.
Days after the studio session while hanging out in Jozi and listening to the recordings, Linda turns his attention to one of the central pieces, a song dedicated to ugogo Gastina, his maternal grandmother. “She passed on a few years ago,” he says. “It is believed that she’s the person looking after me in terms of ancestral beliefs.” It’s a thank you note draped in bright, inviting colours which soothe the calloused spirit. The melodies are like ancestral methods of healing transported and given context by the here and now.