You and I are sitting at a table.
The waiter smiles as he places your favourite drink on the table, and you catch a heavy scent of aftershave as a group of people take their seat at the table beside you. The room is dark, and a hazy smoke hangs in the air as if trying to find an escape. On the walls are framed photos of famous musicians who have played here and you sense this could be the best Jazz bar you’ve ever visited.
The stage host announces a new singer from South Africa who lives in Norway, and her name is Nomzi Kumalo. A hush fills the room as she makes her way across the stage to the microphone stand, as you press play…
Go, Don’t Leave
I can guess you also envisaged either Bille Holiday or Nina Simone adorning the stage. Undoubtedly Nomzi Kumalo is enveloped by their spirits and her vocal dynamics reverb with equal emotional resonance. For me, the comparison is one of the highest compliments one could give.
Artistry of this kind transcends music trends. It’s timeless and creates a one-to-one level of engagement many musicians strive to attain.
Strangely (or not so strange really) jazz rarely arrives in my Scandisoul inbox to a point where jazz as an influence than the leading platform. In consequence, I was unprepared for the emotional wave that swept over me the moment Nomzi Kumalo began to sing. Her vocal characteristics draw from the past with beguiling intimacy. In a time when everything feels like it moves so fast, the slower delivery, rhythm and harmonies had an immediate calming and soul-stirring effect.
Nomzi’s lyrics tear with helpless vulnerability and heartbreaking pleas.
My words to introduce Nomzi are a clear indication of how dramatically my imagination raced away. My longing to experience a live concert again has only heightened with these crippling pandemic restrictions.
The life story behind Nomzi Kumalo is equally intriguing with her childhood journey from the heat of South Africa, through France, and into the chilly winds of Scandinavia.
One of Nomzi’s fondest memories were awakening to the sound of her visiting grandfather playing classical piano on early mornings. Sunday visits to a Baptist church filtered gospel harmonies into her life, and she continued to seek and gather musical influences as she travelled and grew into adulthood. Now based in Norway, her striking jazz/soulful sound and impressive natural vocals have found their home.
Where were we…
As the song ends, the audience ripples with applause. You raise your glass to your lips and we both glance at each other and smile in unison—the unspoken words of acknowledgement are unmistakable.
Take a listen to Nomzi Kumalo and see where she takes you.