Zenzi Makeba Lee does not step on stage alone when she comes to sing. She stands with a great legacy in tow. This is at once, the thing that makes her one of the most anticipated appearances at this year’s Standard Bank Jazz Festival and her Achilles heel.
In part, this owes to the obvious fact of being the late great Miriam Makeba’s granddaughter, and that she also sings. It’s a combination that creates a trap and an opportunity for her. The shadow is a trap but it also creates a curiosity that she can turn to her favour.
Many senior music lovers who came to her performance at the DSG Hall last night had come not simply to see her perform. They came to see pianist, Afrika Mkhize who accompanies her, and their beloved late heroine, Miriam Makeba’s granddaughter sing. This is not to say Zenzi has no chops of her own. In fact, far from it. She holds a phrase with an amazing delicate touch.
This was evident when the band treated important original compositions and jams from the great Pan-African song book. Many of which were made famous by Miriam Makeba herself. It was when handling these that the band was at its most powerful. The power of history became redolent all over the audiences’ faces.
For the jazz police, Mkhize’s solo piano on the sure hit made famous by Miriam Makeba, “My Angel” otherwise known as “Malaika,” was a kind of wonder. He played with enough power to confirm the duo as a musical force to take note of. Heavens seemed to open up when they also took on Nina Simone’s “Ne me quitte pas”. Zenzi’s phrasing was so impeccable, even the most sceptical admirer had to move beyond the constant comparison with the late Makeba.
The night found a cute nod to progeny when they called on young Kwame Mkhize, the duo’s boy child to join the quintet for a song. He worked his way through “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley, the American pop duo. And that was a wrap!