By Moses Magadza
A Nama musician has teamed up with other talented instrumentalists from various parts of southern Africa and has formed a jazz band that has brightened up Sunday afternoons in Windhoek.
Jonathan Goliath aka “G” is a talented drummer and the brains behind Zur Oase Jazz Band that has been drawing large crowds including top executives and tourists to Zur Oase, a watering hole in Windhoek West every Sunday afternoon with its original jazz sounds.
The self-taught Goliath describes their music as “spontaneous original fusion with a heavy jazz feeling”.
“We improvise and don’t sit down to compose. Every member of the band comes up with an idea and initiates a song which is then perfected,” he said last week.
Goliath assembled the band of four last year and it has created numerous songs that he hopes will soon be recorded. For now, the band concentrates on instrumental music without the vocals.
“But we realise that if we have to sell we may have to include vocals,” he said, adding that their first album would carry 10 songs.
The band’s strength seems to be originality.
“We want to introduce something new. We want to surprise people and have them ask: ‘What is this?’ We can’t compete with American jazz musicians, South Africans, Mozambicans and others who have made great names in the jazz field. Our strength is in innovation and originality,” said Goliath.
Goliath revealed that for all his amazing drumming, he is a self-taught musician but says he was inspired by his tribe’s drum beating, which he described 6/8 beat which music gurus say is jazz-related and very sophisticated.
“Mine is a God-given talent. I never got formal training to play drums. I just started by putting together cans and tins and bottles while I was a child in the southern part of Namibia. I am a self-taught drummer,” he said.
He is now a widely-sought after drummer and hired by church bands to play. The diminutive drummer is a familiar sight on television, especially One Africa TV, where he appears playing with church bands.
“Practice makes perfect and that is how I improve my skills. I often play with River of Life Community Church,” he said.
He studied for two years in Music Technology in Kimberley, South Africa, where he specialised in sound engineering, composing and arranging, production and entrepreneurship between 2004 and 2005. He obtained a Diploma in Music Technology (NQF).
“We just play lead, bass, drums and a keyboard for now but we are open to possibilities.”
Asked where the band will be three years from now, Goliath said: “It is hard to say owing to various factors. We need financial support and someone to promote us and put us on the market. We need exposure. We need somebody to manage our band so that we can concentrate on producing music.”
He said the band urgently needs good instruments. A church gave him the drums that he plays. Other band members own some of the instruments, while the rest is hired.
“Our music is very well received. We just lack exposure,” he stressed, adding: “We want to penetrate more popular venues in town.”
He said he was grateful to the owner of Zur Oase for giving them a venue to play every Sunday but said there was a limit to what one man could do in managing a band with so much promise and talent as his.
“He is doing his best but we want more. We need to go to the next level. This is our source of livelihood,” he said.
He described the Namibian music industry as “wide open” and said musicians who can play live music in decent places can earn a living from doing so.
The band’s bassist is Congolese musician Claude Tshibasu (29) who once played rhythm guitar for popular Congolese musician Kofi “Mopao” Olomide.
He has lived in Namibia for 11 years and is a sound engineer at Namcol. He says he is negotiating with his boss to allow him to use their state-of-the-art studio and record the group’s first album.
He admires Mozambican musicians and says they produce “very good jazz music” and singles out Jimmy Dhludhlu, who has done well in South Africa.
“I played rhythm guitar for Kofi in 1991. In 1999 I played bass guitar for Mbouta Likasu, another great musician. I was lucky. Our neighbour in DRC was a great musician and had instruments at his house. He loved cigarettes and as a young boy I would take some to him and ‘bribe’ him to teach me. He asked me what I wanted to play. I wanted the rhythm guitar and he taught me,” he said.
Tshibasu revealed that parental interference almost nipped his talent in the bud.
“My father is a medical doctor and he wanted me to concentrate with school and be like him but my heart was not in it. I was punished each time I was caught going to our neighbour’s house so I had to dodge and ensure I was not caught,” he said.
How then did the then artful dodger end up playing bass guitar?
“After a while, my mentor told me that I had long fingers and that I could play bass guitar a lot more easily than rhythm guitar, which is the most difficult and tiring guitar to play. The rhythm guitarist does not rest during a song. I took my mentor’s advice and took to the bass guitar as a duck takes to water.
My mentor was a talented musician and played lead guitar for Pepe Kale, the doyen of Congolese rhumba. His name was Manuaki but was nicknamed ‘Boeing 737’ on account of his ability to imitate the take-off of a plane with his guitar when Pepe Kale gave the, ‘take off’ order,” he said.
In 1999 Tshibasu went to South Africa to visit some relatives but they were not very welcoming.
“I decided to go back to DRC and came through Namibia. I saw the country and warm hospitality of the Namibian people and decided to stay a bit and here I am, 11 years on,” he said with a chuckle.
The band also has a bundle of talents in the form of Sam Batula, a lead guitarist from Congo Brazzaville. The 27-year-old is a graduate of Congo Brazzaville’s prestigious Academy of Arts where he specialised in contemporary jazz.
Namibian Eddie Afrikaner (23) plays keyboard.