Blind pianist comes to town

Jazz pianist Yonela Mnana.

The first leg of this tour will see his Soul Xpedition Quartet perform at selected venues around Cape Town, before continuing his tour through KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Many compare Yonela’s soul, jazz and classical music genius with Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles – although his singing, piano playing, composing, teaching and arranging skills are distinctly South African.

Led by Yonela on keys and vocals, the Soul Xpedition Quartet comprises some other amazing performers: Keenan Chas Ahrends on guitar, Nick Williams on bass, and Claude Cozens on drums.

Born in the Transkei, Yonela grew up in Mamelodi, Pretoria and studied in Pietersburg. His geographical traversals privileged him with a rich soundscape including African and Western choral styles, kwaito and R&B, soul, 90s popular music and traditional music in the auditory periphery of his missionary boarding school, Siloe.

While enrolling for a B.Mus at the University of the Witwatersrand, the tutelage of Marian Friedman and Malcolm Nay (for classical piano studies), Nishlyn Ramanna, Andile Yenana, Mncedi Kupa and mentorship of bassist Jimmy Mngwandi ushered him into a real life jazz experience.

Yonela has since played with revered jazz masters Zim Ngqawana (2005 to 2006) Feya Faku, Herbie Tsoaeli, Sydney Mnisi, Clement Benny, Marcus Wyatt, Loraine Klasen, Bheki Khoza and Barnie Rachabane. To date, he has recorded with Lex Futshane, and Mandla Mlangeni’s the Amandla Freedom Ensemble on their respective debut albums.

He continually navigates the Joburg, Cape Town and Durban jazz club circuit with fellow musicians and friends such as Ariel Zamonsky, Sphiwe Shiburi Sisonke Xonti, Mthunzi Mvubu, Nhlnhla Mahlangu, Lindiwe Maxolo, etc.

He is also embarking on other unrealeased projects by Mandla Mlangeni, Spha Mdlalose and an eclectic musical endeavour with London house deejay Q.B. Smith, school choral works with Soultee, the South African School Choral Eisteddfod and Ezibeleni’s vivacious sounds. He teaches at Ezibeleni School for Special Needs and studies towards his postgraduate degree in music at Wits University.

Yonela’s tour is supported by the Music Mobility Fund, a funding mechanism administered by Concerts SA, which offers opportunities for South African musicians to undertake live music tours.

On Sunday November 6, he will be at kwaSec, at NY 138 No 52, at 3pm. Tickets cost R60. Contact Luvuyo Kakaza at 082 093 5369 or email for details