Johannesburg - It’s time for the Standard Bank Jazz Festival. More than 100 international musicians from 12 countries will converge for a collaborative jazz potjie in Grahamstown, which will be rechristened #Jazztown for the duration of the July jamboree that is part of the National Arts Festival.
One of them is rising singer-songwriter Zoë Modiga who recently released her debut record Yellow: The Novel.
Journalist and author Percy Mabandu caught up with her.
Your new solo album, Yellow: The Novel, was recently released. Congratulations on that breakthrough. How has this affected your career as a musician?
Thank you! It is so amazing to finally have a body of work that is a self-expression from me and communicates who I am and what I would like to be known by even in this experimental phase of my career. It has been so fulfilling to move people and I’m thrilled to build on the beautiful reception of my pride and joy, my debut album.
Your album comprises a range of musical styles; you go into soul, folk and jazz. Tell us about the creative vision that you were working with?
Yellow: The Novel is about self-realisation, the many genres and styles are a metaphor for the complexity that we are as human beings as we try to understand our place in the world every day. In addition, I thrive on music, and the possibilities it comes with and was excited by the idea of exploring and sharing my versatility because, really, there are many ways of communicating one thing.
If you were to describe Zoë Modiga in a phrase, what would it be?
Zoë is a gentle soul with a wild fire.
You have a particularly stylised identity as an artist. Who are your inspirations?
My inspiration is normal people and life. That’s really the most honest answer I can give you. Musically, Nina Simone epitomises inspiration to me. Living a life of standing for what she believes and heartfelt expression.
Many people don’t think of singers as equal to instrumentalists in jazz. Are you finding it easier or harder to gain respect for your chops compared with your peers who play stuff?
I know this very well and I find it really funny and incredibly inaccurate. I don’t believe in chops. I never have. I think being skilful is incredible. Spending time with your instrument is crucial to growing the way you express it, but I would like to be remembered for moving people and I think if I can’t do that, then I’m not a musician.
The Standard Bank Jazz Festival is turning 25 years this year. You’ve attended the festival and its workshops for several years. What have they meant for your development as a musician?
It’s been instrumental in my growth as a young musician. Being able to do workshops and immerse myself in music from the iconic musicians and fellow contemporaries that come each year has been epic. In addition, being in the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Band under the leadership of Marcus Wyatt and Mark Fransman was such a highlight and honour to my career. So much information and heart. Kudos to the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival!
What are you planning for your gig at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival?
It is going to be incredible. I have beautiful musicians alongside me. I hope it’s a display of heart and showmanship but I put 100% into my music and I feel over the moon to share that in a space that built me up over the years. Let’s rock and roll!
Modiga is performing on Monday, 3 July 3, 17:00 at DSG Hall at the National Arts Festival. For more info, visit nationalartsfestival.co.za