School of Arts

UKZN music alumnus graduates from prestigious New York school

UKZN Alumnus and jazz musician Mr Linda Sikhakhane
UKZN Alumnus and jazz musician Mr Linda Sikhakhane
UKZN Alumnus and jazz musician Mr Linda Sikhakhane

Sikhakhane, who hails from Umlazi, began his musical journey in 1998 at the age of six while attending Clairwood Boys Primary School. He was introduced to the art of jazz in 2003 when he joined the Siyakhula Musical Centre and his journey progressed with mentoring from internationally acclaimed trumpeter Dr Brian Thusi.

‘I obtained a Diploma in Jazz/Popular Music from UKZN 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 enrol at The New School in New York,’ he said.

Tuition at this reputable university does not come cheap, and the scholarship received by Sikhakhane was not enough. Pacinamix stepped in and covered 50% of his fees.

‘Pacinamix heeded the call when the National Arts Council 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 Mr Manzini Zungu, the Pacinamix CEO that I recovered from the depression I was facing at the time’ explained Sikhakhane.

‘At Pacinamix we believe in talent. We nurture it and support it through various means. 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 Zungu.

The New School is one of the most prestigious private universities in the world and its notable alumni include 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 the 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 parallels in jazz and the politics between South Africa and the United States have constructed a bridge worth taking for both worlds,’ Sikhakhane added.

More than anything, his connection to music is rooted in 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 explains. ‘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 over time.’

For a lot of students, particularly those within the art space, funding is a major challenge.

‘My advice to students looking for funding is to explore as many avenues as possible, to give themselves enough time to raise funds, share their stories with influential people, 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 that he first performed for his parents and siblings and this is something he will always treasure.

‘Some of my other favourite venues include Rainbow Restaurant, Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at UKZN, Jazz Rainbow, Niki’s Oasis, The Chairman, The Orbit, Small Jazz Club and many others. I hold all of them dear 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 a SA/USA collaboration in the form of an album soon. He believes that this will be the perfect way to document current conversations with the diaspora and will contribute to an important archive.

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