Jazz icon Nduduzo Makhathini has seriously inspired many locals after bagging his Ph.D qualification from Stellenbosch University.

Dubbed a leading figure in the South African jazz scene with many accolades to his name, the musician will now be referred to as Dr. Makhathini. 

Born in Umgungundlovu in KwaZula-Natal, he was awarded a Ph.D. at Stellenbosch University (SU) this week during the March graduation ceremonies.

The talented pianist, educator, composer, producer, and researcher became the first Mzansi artist to be signed to the prestigious Blue Note jazz record label.

“Yesterday I graduated with a Ph.D. in Music from Stellenbosch University, I’m thankful to everyone that has been supportive in this journey since my registration in 2019,” he wrote on Instagram.

“I’m interested in improvisations in South African jazz and fellowships with spirituality. This comes from an upbringing in a musical family and community, and the blessing of learning about sound in a ritual context. These interests have led to a long itinerary of searching all around the world.”

He has collaborated with many renowned artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Shabaka Hutchings, Nasheet Waits, Somi and Black Coffee. 

Nduduzo is also the Head of the Music Department at the University of Fort Hare. At Stellenbosch University he pursued an integrated Ph.D., which refers to degrees where artistic practice and writing are employed as two modalities that mutually inform and articulate a single research project. 

“I’ve been writing this Ph.D. while traveling between soundchecks and spending time with really incredible thinkers and artists around the world,” he added.

“In my research, I propose the notion of writing as a ritual. In this context, writing considers the spiritual paradigm as an active site for revelations and prophecies, so I want to also thank the dimension that I regard in my work as an ‘elsewhere’.” 

He was a student at the Africa Open Institute for Music, Research, and Innovation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SU. His doctoral project, titled “Breaking into Sound: Dis/Locating Ntu Cosmology and Improvisation in South African Jazz”, is deeply rooted in Zulu cosmology.

Looking at his career, he has released eight albums since 2014, when he founded the recording label Gundu Entertainment along with his wife, Omagugu.

Additionally, he was signed by Universal Music South Africa in 2018 and soon after, he became the first South African artist to sign with iconic jazz label Blue Note Records for his albums Letters from the Underworlds (2020) and The Spirit of Ntu (2022).

He credited his wife for enabling him to juggle performing, composing, teaching, and learning.

“I’m blessed to have such a supportive partner. She is an incredible artist herself but has been selflessly supporting my journey for many years. She makes everything possible and I love her deeply,” he concluded.

Main Image: Nduduzo Mkahathini/Instagram
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