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Umlazi-born jazz musician graduates from New York school

Linda Sikhakhane a South African-born jazz musician joins the likes of Tom Ford and Bradley Cooper as an alumni of the New York-based; The New School in the United States after being added by Pacinamix – a cutting edge PR firm. Sikhakhane who is an Umlazi-born saxophonist began his musical journey in 1998 at the age of six while attending Clairwood Boys Primary School. Later he was introduced to the art of Jazz in 2003 when he joined the Siyakhula Musical Center.It was here that his journey progressed as he received mentoring from internationally acclaimed trumpeter Dr. Brian Thusi.

‘I obtained a Diploma in Jazz/Popular Music from the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2012 and soon left for Johannesburg to be a part of the greater music community. In 2016 I was awarded the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship for instrumentalists which led me to enrolling at The New School in New York,’ Sikhakhane said. Tuition at this reputable university does not come cheap, and the scholarship received by Sikhakhane was not enough to cover his full tuition. This is when Pacinamix aided the talented musician who covered 50 per cent of his tuition.

‘Pacinamix heeded the call of the young talented artist when the National Arts Council (NAC) went silent on international scholarships, which I believe set a lot of South African scholars studying abroad up for failure. It was through the generosity of Manzini Zungu, the Pacinamix CEO, that I healed from the depression I was facing at the time when his company came to my aid and enabled me to complete my degree,’ he explained. ‘At Pacinamix we believe in talent. We nurture it and support it through various means. We recently sponsored the Salvation Army Church in their choir’s live show, The Easter Songs of Praise ahead of the Easter Weekend. We’re proud of Linda and hope he makes the best of his education and experience to help others like him in the future,’ said Pacinamix CEO Manzini Zungu.

The New School is one of the most prestigious private universities in the world, and has notable alumni such as Tom Ford, Bradley Cooper, Marc Jacobs, James Baldwin and Jonah Hill. ‘For SA born students to get the opportunity to study abroad is truly beneficial to country because it contributes to knowledge sharing and cultural exchange. It opened me up to the possibilities of how I can position myself here at home, as well as anywhere else in the world. I also feel that this cultural exchange is rather urgent considering the transatlantic trade that forms part of black history. The parallelism in jazz and the politics between South Africa and the United States have constructed a bridge worth breaking for both worlds,’ he added.

More than anything, Sikhakhane’s connection to music is rooted to his spirituality. It is through this connection that he creates his music. ‘Growing up in KwaZulu-Natal has been a privilege. It is a province that is rich in culture and forms part of a jazz chronology in the world,’ he explained. ‘My creative process involves being alert and in tune with the cosmos. This enables me to receive what is due to me and the people through my existence and that is how my songs are composed. I co-create what I receive, and it evolves overtime.’

For a lot of students, particularly those within the art space, funding is a challenge that is often encountered, and it can be quite disheartening.  ‘My advice to students looking for funding is for them to explore as many avenues as possible, to give themselves enough time to raise funds, share their stories to influential people, to never be discouraged by negative responses and for them to create their own scholarship path with the help of the people in their respective communities,’ Sikhakhane said.

While he values international stages and draws inspiration from his travels, Sikhakhane’s favourite performance venue is his home. He explains that it was at home where he first presented his performance to his parents and his siblings and this is something he will always treasure. ‘Some of my other favourite venues include Rainbow Restaurant, Centre for Jazz/Pop Music, Jazz Rainbow, Niki’s Oasis, The Chairman, The Orbit, Small Jazz Club and many others. I hold all of them dear to me because they gave me the opportunity to express myself and collaborate with my favourite artists,’ he said.

As a cheerleader for collaboration, Sikhakhane hopes to do an SA/US collaboration in the form of an album soon. He believes that this will be the perfect way to document the current conversations with the diaspora and will contribute significantly towards an important archive.

To Sikhakhane we say, ‘Halala, siyaziqhenya ngawe!’

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