One of the things that the It Has To Be Jazz® project team discovered recently is the high rate at which changes in the jazz space occur. This is quite alarming and most certainly it is overwhelming. I recently had a discussion with Bokang Ramatlapeng and it was not until she mentioned that we first met about 3 years ago during her first year recital at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) that I realised how time flies. At that point, it got me thinking about what else have I missed in the last 3 years? I suppose there is very little one can do about it.
We attended 3 events where she featured. The first one was the recital, followed by a show at the Market Theatre where Khaya Mahlangu had put together a youth jazz orchestra. The last time we saw her was during a competition at University of Johannesburg where the It Has To Be Jazz® project team formed part of the panel of judges. Unfortunately, in all 3 events she was performing in a fairly ‘restrained’ environment and therefore, she could neither really be herself nor shine. I remember telling my CEO Tshepo Maseko that there must be a lot more in her voice because here and there during the 3 performances there were traces of an amazing singer just dying to come out.
Well, I finally made time to chat with her over the phone. She promptly sent me a video clip containing a track called Diteboho; a duet with a pianist and it clearly positions her voice in jazz. I must admit that I am biased when it comes to her singing voice, maybe largely because I am so in love with Carmen McRae’s vocals range. Generally, I tend to be influenced by ladies whose voices shuttle between the husky and silky smooth texture; which Bokang does so well and with such ease. Her cool and comfortable demeanour with which she carries and delivers her vocals is incredible and it is quite a gift. While I may wish to hear her sing in the same context and style as Diteboho at all times, it would be unfair because only her knows how she feels the song and give it the zest it needs. For me, Diteboho is a sound signature I have been waiting for and I am just so happy that I have confirmation that she has it. I only hope she will continue to shine as she goes out into the world.
The level of her voice maturity can easily fool you into thinking she has been singing all her life. She only started in 2010. I believe that most of what she does with her voice is mostly to enhance talent. Here is something I only discovered during the discussion, her full names. I knew her by her stage name; ‘Her Own Skin.’ We did not dwell much on her stage name and I am certain we will find time to go through that discussion at some point. But her real names are Bokang Makhotso Ramatlapeng.
She has not been resting on her laurels since 2010. She has been hard at work. For instance, she is in her final year of her degree in Jazz and Popular Music. I went through her profile and discovered some really interesting stuff about her blossoming career. She did some amazing work at a couple of places like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Grahamstown and Stellenbosch.
But that is not all! She has graced some of the most popular and internationally recognised stages like University of Johannesburg and Arts Jazz Festival, Standard Bank Youth Festival and TUT Arts Festival. This is a good stepping stone into music and the arts industry in general. I am glad she is making the necessary inroads which include availing herself to clubs like Afro Bru and African Freedom Station.
But success cannot be viewed in isolation. There must be like-minded jazz folks of that need to help you along the path. I had a quick browse through the list of artists that Bokang has done some work with. One of them is Ntando Ngcapu, the winner of the SAMRO scholarship and an incredible composer we have already recorded in 2 of the It Has To Be Jazz® projects. Thabiso Mfana is on the list too. Khaya Mahlangu, a veteran and a legend in his own right, needs no introduction. Now for one to be in Marcus Wyatt’s band, you have to be extra-ordinarily gifted. Marcus did some major work during the ZAR Jazz Orchestra followed by a stellar performance of the South African Song Book that was performed both in the United States of America and South Africa. She also made the list of respected musicians like Sphelelo Mazibuko, Vuma Levin, Teboho Kobedi and Romy Brauteseth.
With her current focus, I would say she is on the right path and this is only the beginning. Personally, I can hardly wait to see her in the next 2 years. She is definitely headed for big things. All I can say is, ‘Watch this space!’
So, why did Bokang make the It Has To Be Jazz® project review? There is talent you cannot help but shine the spotlight on. We are ecstatic that we found her at the right age and that will give us an opportunity to watch her grow professionally. But most importantly, we are looking forward to her future offerings.