I don’t think anyone was ever prepared for a pandemic in our lifetime, let alone the repercussions of what was to follow. 2 years later, and desperately starved of live performances, I jumped at the opportunity of attending one, organized by Afrika Mkhize and various artists who were paying tribute to the legendary Andre Petersen.
It was clear from the poster that this was one for the books. The line-up was what I expected because the majority of artists at some point interacted with Andre. There was a small print about WITS students performing. Having missed their last recital, I was curious as to who they could be. The long-awaited day came and guess who I met first, Angus Hardcastle. Boy was I glad to discover that they were scheduled to play. What I did not know was that they were going to feature a star who basically stole the show, Motswedi Modiba also affectionately known as Maite.
There are a few things that test a jazz singer in South Africa and one of these is the presentation of a South African jazz standard or better yet classic. As you may have guessed it is the usual go to song ‘Yakhal’Inkomo. I continue to be mesmerised by each effort and energy artists put into showcasing this song regardless of whether it is instrumental or vocal.
Motswedi was invited on stage. She spoke briefly about her relationship with the Petersen family and then she let the music take over.
Since I started writing this article, I have been struggling to find words to clearly depict to the fullest extent the impact this rendition of Yakhal’ Inkomo had on me. The vocals and scat singing were truly out of this world. I must admit, (and without passing blame on Covid), thought I had my finger on the pulse and was keeping track on these new, young and gifted South African jazz musicians. I was wrong because I only discovered Motswedi on Saturday. But alas, what matters is that I now know her and I will be following her career.
There are things you may not know of this gem. She obtained her Bachelors in Music, and was recently accepted to begin her Masters at he school of Music in Manhattan in 2022. Post graduate studies is something I have come to expect of our youth and I am certain we all wish her well.
Her very colourful and professional singing career started in 2009 where she was featured in some of the amazing recordings such as Babawethu, feature on Tebs David ‘Coming Back’ album. 2009, Babawethu, My family and I – Debut album. 2011, Its Over (Restoration) – EP. 2016, This Joy (Featured by Twasa) Kairos the turnup – 2017, I’m loved by God (featured by Dr. Tumi) Beauty for Ashes Album – 2018, Ngifuna Wena (featured by J.D Crosson). 2018 and ‘Ska Chechella Morago – 2020.
When one discovers such an angelic voice, one cannot help but wonder who she hangs out with to make beautiful music. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is the likes of Andre & Chantal Petersen, Dr Kgomosto Mugushi, Bruckner University Big Band, Dr. Tumi (official backing vocalist), David Cousins, Romy Brauteseth, Keenan Ahrends, Sphelelo ‘Lelo’ Mazibuko, Langa Mavuso, Fred Hammond, Bishop Cortez Vaughn, William McDowell, Salim Washington, Twasa, JD Crosson, Ps. John W. Stevenson, Keorapetse Kolwane, Prince Lengoasa, Ntlantla Swana and S’bane (she is one of the four members of the acapella ladies’ group.) They rearrange and perform proudly South African female composed music such as Kusile by Nomfundo Xaluva and Baxabene Oxamu by Miriam Makeba.
She has performed just about everywhere in South Africa except Northern Cape and featured at Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival; and at outfits like The Orbit and Afrobru.
We have learned a lot since the Covid-19 pandemic started, and we now know that being a performing artist alone is no longer enough. I am glad to see that there is a lot more Motswedi has taken on. She is a lecturer (vocal coach) at Wits university and she is lecturing the final year jazz voice students in preparation for their final recitals in November. Indeed, her determination is underpinned by her insane work ethic. Check out her amazing work, ‘Ska Chechella Morago’ on online digital stores.