Drummer Tumi Mogorosi’s sophomore outing as a solo artist comes nearly a decade since he broke into the improvised music scene with 2014’s ‘Project Elo’.
‘Group Theory: Black Music’ is a drummetic, operatic suite delivered over eleven sweltering movements, each a guide map of both blackness and African-ness straddling the continent and the diaspora, along with their attendant contours.
With a stellar cast that includes Andile Yenana on piano and Reza Khota on guitar, the suite becomes a collaborative hub spanning three generations of South African jazz, with featured artists Siya Mthembu, Gabi Motuba, and Lesego Rampolokeng lending their voices to an already firm foundation, backed by an angelic ten-person choir, cushioned by the piercing bass of Dalisu Ndlazi, and emboldened by the golden horns of Mthunzi Mvubu and Tumi Pheko.
This film, produced by the good people at Mushroom Hour, is an encounter with Mogorosi at various junctures during the album two-day recording process at Downtown Studios, Johannesburg — itself a hub of recorded black music, and an important site of .
It’s also a chance to delve into the theory that informs the artist’s work, and a revelation about what the artist does outside of art-ing. In his own words: “I don’t live like an artist, you know?! ‘Cos now I also have a seven year-old [daughter]. So I might practice [for] an hour, then listen to music, I read.”
Mogorosi’s theoretical underpinning – that new black music is to find the self and kill it – is derived from the writings of Amiri Baraka, himself a revered scholar and defender of the avant garde. The collaborative streak eschews traditional notions of the singular composer while stretching into other realms of art with renowned photographer Andrew Tshabangu’s striking portrait of dancer.
It’s a triumphant outing from one of Mzansi’s treasures, an innovative musician whose every offering thus far has stretched the limits of what the creation termed ‘jazz’ can become.
Filmed by: Tseliso Monaheng and Lungelo Mntambo
Interview and additional footage: Nhlanhla Masondo
Edited by: Nhlanhla Mngadi
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