Zoë Modiga: a creative on a lane only she can occupy

Zoë Modiga: a creative on a lane only she can occupy

By BA Staff

Without question, Zoë Modiga is one of the most influential musicians on the South African music scene today. Born in Overport, Durban and raised in Pietermaritzburg, she is a hugely gifted musician and a major catalyst in the cultural project or movement that seeks to preserve the winding heritage of the rich (authentically) South African music creations from previous generations while exploring new and uncharted creative ways that tell authentic tales of the present-day South African circumstance.

A force to be reckoned with, Zoë is a wildly gifted and fervent performer, compelling vocalist, composer, with a sense of spirituality that defies words. The multi-layered texture of her powerful voice is reminiscent of a long line of generations of great South African woman vocalists and composers. If you’ve seen her live, you’ll find it easy to agree that her dynamism is sheer sorcery – when she sings gently, her melody trills and flows like water, but when she rises to full strength, she takes things to the next and becomes an unbounded spirit, dazzling the audience with supreme force. All things considered, she is high power and an incredibly significant voice of a generation for a generation.

(Zoë and Banda Banda in motion: image by JazzyGee)

Recently, we’ve heard a privilege of witnessing her supreme talents during one of her two sold out live shows in Johannesburg. Hosted by the enchanting Blend-It Café, situated at the eclectic and non-confirming 7th Street in Melville she, together with a longtime collaborator and producer Banda Banda (another huge gifted and important musician and composer), capitated the intrigued audience for the entire duration of the nearly three hour-performance. Performing songs mainly from Zoë’s sophomore body of work Inganekwane and some cuts from Banda Banda & The Crocodile’s offering Africado.

Zoë is an unbounded mood and enchanting experience – she is an authentic jazz and world music singer and Banda Banda, a supreme bassist, has over the years made himself known as an advocate for meaningful and everlasting music. It was easy for us to appreciate that their live performance would be what can be called a watershed moment in space and time. If you fully understand and fully appreciate the virtues and of these two virtuoso creatives’ creations and the essence of the (creative) storytelling you’ll also find it easy to appreciate that this was indeed a historic moment. We count ourselves quite fortunate to have witnessed this moment.

What made the experience even more priceless was the chemistry and understanding between the two musicians. Their performance was so incredible and they made all seem so easy and seamless. That is, in and of itself, an incredible experience. It is a soothing sight to see two supremely gifted creatives work together in a such an organic vogue. Everything looked so well coordinated, seamless, and yet with such effortlessness. It was also incredible to witness first-hand and on stage the great mutual respect the two have for each other and for each other’s work. It was just all an admirable sight. We were looking forward to all of these aspects, after all Banda Banda produced Inganekwane – however the experience was just beyond what we had expected. It became more and a moment not possible to forget.

(Zoë in a beautiful and intensely spiritual moment with a fan: image by JazzyGee)

Some of the songs performed were Abantu”, “Umdali”, “Lengoma, “Uthando”, “Tata”, “Isegazini”, and Ilanga Lishonile” from Inganekwane and “Zulu”, “Dance Africa” and “Esther And James” from Africado.

We had an incredibly liberating musical experience on this evening. Both these creatives have so much to offer. They are profoundly important for many reasons. But in the main, they are both important for their distinctiveness and authenticity. They both, without question, occupy lanes only they can occupy. And they are such incredible African story narrators. It is not hyperbolic to say that we will probably follow them everywhere else they go – so long as we have the means to reach there. S’yabonga!

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