Amandla Freedom

Amandla Freedom Ensemble

Photography by : Solomon Moremong

Photography by : Solomon Moremong

Born To Be Black: A Celebration of The Conscious Soul

Born To Be Black: A Celebration of The Conscious Soul is a vision, which encompasses the echoes of South African township groove and no-holds-barred freedom alongside the vibrant and mesmerising chants of the drums. In the rich jazz history of old lions making inspired new music with a young ones, ‘Born To Be Black’ is in every way a proclamation of our rich musical history.

The Amandla Freedom Ensemble have in recent years positioned themselves as a musical tour de force with an original cultural identity and agenda of creating new music that speaks to both young and old. Described by the Jazz Times (USA) as an “urban arts ensemble which wraps elliptical melodies in three-part harmonies, rich with impasto, swinging like broken chandeliers.”

2015 The ensemble extensively performed within the SADC regions and to date they have participated at the Harare International Festival of Arts in Zimbabwe, the MTNBushfire Festival in Swaziland and subsequent tours in Maputo, Mozambique. The AFE have concluded the extensive run in a culmination of performances at several music festivals such as the Fete de la Muziq and the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown. A successful CD launch and a subsequent nomination for Best Jazz Album has seen a deluge of collaborations and performances with many and diverse artists such as AfrikaMkhize, HerbieTsoaeli, Mark Fransman and several notable engagements position the ensemble at the forefront in creating an original platforms to showcase new and original sounds. The Amandla Freedom Ensembleis steadily capturing the attention of many jazz patrons and new audiences wherever it performs. Born To Be Black draws on an exciting and vibrant group of musicians with an appetite for different genres in a setting primed for all kinds of audiences.

Featured Soloists: Louis Moholo (drums) AndileYenana (piano), Prof. Salim Washington (bass clarinet, flute and oboe)

Amandla Freedom Ensemble
Mandla Mlangeni (trumpet) NhlanhlaMahlangu (alto saxophone), Oscar Rachabane (penny whistle and tenor saxophone),Sisonke Xonti
(baritone saxophone) GontseMakhene(percussion) Ariel Zamonsky (bass) TumiMogorosi (drums)

Pro Helvetia Johannesburg has for some time been investing in transnational collaborations, exchanges and joint projects among organisations and creative practitioners operating across the SADC region, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Their investments are focused on projects, networks and platforms that have a shared interest in building a stronger regional creative fabric.

Amandla Freedom Ensemble

Mandla Mlangeni

Nhlanhla Mahlangu
(alto saxophone)

Oscar Rachabane
(penny whistle and tenor saxophone)

Sisonke Xonti
(baritone saxophone)

Gontse Makhene

Ariel Zamonsky

Tumi Mogorosi


Artwork: Mzwandile Buthelezi

Artwork: Mzwandile Buthelezi

Amandla Freedom Ensemble

An urban arts music collective of young musicians dedicated to the advancement and preservation of the South African music legacy. We participate in artistic dialogue and collaborations with many of the living legends of South African music, particularly jazz and indigenous music. The Amandla Freedom Ensemble is a cultural movement founded on the pillar of promoting opportunities for everyone to experience live music .As an ensemble we are committed to promoting quality and artistic renewal through collaborations with established musicians, workshops with composers/arrangers with the mission of contributing to the canon of our dynamic musical heritage.

The Amandla Freedom Ensemble highlights the compositional material of bandleader Mandla Mlangeni(trumpet) and executed by an impeccable dynamism by the ensemble in the form of Tumi Mogorosi (drums), Ariel Zamonsky (bass) Oscar Rachabane and Nhlanhla Mahlangu (tenor saxophones).

The ensemble has in recent months positioned themselves as a musical tour de force with an original cultural identity and agenda of creating new music that speaks to both young and old. Fresh from an extended tour of the SADC. Earlier in the year in Zimbabwe where they performed on the fringe of the Harare International Festival of Arts (HIFA), CCFM AND Bar e Bar in Maputo Mozambique and touching down at the MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland and ending up at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

The Amandla Freedom Ensemble (AFE) has been described by the Jazz Times as an “urban arts ensemble which wraps elliptical melodies in three-part harmonies, rich with impasto, swinging like broken chandeliers.”

Tumi Mogorosi (drums)

Aged 26, Tumi is increasingly building a reputation in the South African jazz scene among the new crop of young jazz musicians. Besides his intermittent formal studies at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) which he completed in 2012, the young drummer has refined his brush strokes alongside prominent South African jazz musicians who count – among trumpeter Feya Faku, bassist Herbie Tsoaeli as well as Andile Yenana.

Tumi was also part of the Gauteng Jazz Orchestra which opened the stage for world- renowned American Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis during his 2011 premier of the Joy Of Jazz. More remarkable is Tumi’s fresh and bold offering as a composer and leader on his debut CD, Project Elo, which is currently out in stores.

Gontse Makhene

2003: Started Kwani Experience with Frank Magongwa, Madite Moalusi, Mahlatse Riba
2004: Started L.A.P in with Bafana Nhlapo and Zwelakhe Zwane.Played Djembe for the South African musical TAPSULA directed by Doss Molele,Mcedisi Shabangu and choreographed by Cinda Eatock. Recorded the first Kwani album called the birth of the Mudaland Funk with Sheer Sounds having won the Totally Jazzed competition sponsored by Standard Bank, Kaya FM and sheer sound 2005 recorded the L.A.P album STIFF-PAP AND THE GANG
(Djembe and Conga, co-composer)

2006: featured on Della Tamin’s album. Launched Madala Kunene’s album Uxolo and performed at the same launch which would later be a DVD released in South Africa. Played percussion for Lauryn Hill from USA 2006 and for Netsai Chikwenderefor the National Arts Festival in Johannesburg. Session percussionist for Somizi Mhlongo, Thandiswa Mazwai, Ringo Madlingozi, KB, Kabelo Mabalane, Arthur Mafokate and Gloria Bosman

2007: Recorded second Kwani Experience second album Live After Birth . Toured Holland and France 2007 and collaborated with French DJ Jeff Sharell and DJ Oil album to be released soon in France and SA .Toured Holland and Belgium with Kwani Experience
Toured Europe twice with Simphiwe Dana

2010: Played with Moropa
Session percussionist for KB at the SACP 80th birthday
Session percussionist for Mulatu Astatke for the Joy of Jazz festival 2010. Performed on the soil dvd live recording of nostalgic moments 2014. 
Recorded percussions on Zama Jobe SAMA nominated album Thula mtanamtoured with forest jam Project to Madagascar for 6 weeks


Played at forest jam band with Matthias Abacherli Madala Kunene,Mabi Thobejane. Performed with Madala Kunene and the forest jam band at Sakifo Festival in the reunion islands and first Zakifo Festival in Durban. About to embark on the dream scapes,seeing sounds and hearing pictures project.

Ariel Zamonsky (contra bass)

Born in Argentina in 1987, Ariel started playing electric bass at age 13. His family relocated to South Africa in 2005, here he finished high school and completed his music studies at Tshwane University of Technology. In 2012 Ariel landed a break in the form of a regular gig for 7 months backing pianist extraordinaire Andile Yenana, that same year he started playing upright bass. Since then he has performed with some of South Africa´s greatest jazz artists including Feya Faku, Afrika Mhkize, Nduduzo Mahkathini, Ayanda Sikade.

He recorded on Nduduzo Makathini´s "Sketces of tomorrow" album. He worked with the Bowling Club Big Band for a year and often plays with The Orbit Big Band. 

He has performed with Afrika Mkhize, Andile Yenana and Sidney Mavundla at the Durban Jazz Festival and regularly performs with the Amandla Freedom Ensemble, Project Elo and other jazz ensembles in Johannesburg. He has toured around South Africa to Port Elizabeth, East London, Cape Town, Durban and the Transkei.

Nhlanhla Mahlangu

Born May 12, 1989, in Mamelodi, East of Pretoria. Mahlangu’s first encounter with music was in 2003 at an orphanage (SOS), where an art project was run on weekends in correspondence with the UNISA community engagement and outreach program. Mahlangu’s first exposure to jazz came through the records of Nat King Cole and the then known as Dollar Brand. By the age of 16, Mahlangu had picked up the saxophone and almost from the moment he first started playing, it was apparent he had a talent for it. The young musician loved to imitate the sounds of Charlie Parker and Manenberg Coetzee. One of the earliest ensembles Mahlangu played in was a group led by Yonela Mnana, with whom he played tenor sax. Later he met and started working with Nduduzo Makhathini’s band, where the young musician began to fully explore his experimental side of modal music and recorded as a sideman. The music industry at large requires a musician to keep learning and collaborate with more experienced artists so as to gain experience, as the age old saying goes “EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER”. Some of the great artist’s that we had the privilege and honour of working with include : Feya Faku, Don Laka, Dr Abdulah Ibrahim, Prof. Rufus Reid (USA), Dr Yusef Latif (USA), Prof Lein Ariel (USA), Barney Rachabane, Themba Mkhize, Andile Yenana, Herbie Tsoaeli, Moss Mogale, Zwelakhe Duma Bell-Le Pere, Victor Masondo, Ringo Madlingozi, Skwata Kamp, Victor Masondo, Vusi Mahlasela and Italo Dlamini (Swaziland) but to name a few. We also recorded albums with the likes of: Afrika Mkhize, Ayanda Sikade, Feya Faku, NduduzoMakhathini, Tumi Mogorosi, and more.

Oscar Rachabane

Oscar Rachabane is on record the youngest saxophonist ever to have played at Kippies. The incredibly talented youngster made his debut at the popular jazz joint in 2004 at the age of fifteen. In 2010 he shared the stage with his grandfather in a jazz orchestra of future South African jazz stars and veterans. The orchestra played at the Johannesburg City Hall and was conducted by Abdullah Ibrahim. Claiming his seat as South Africa’s natural bebop exponents, Oscar is slowly yet steadily forging an impressive career. His unique style combines bebop and blues, threaded through always with the inflections of the kwela Soweto youth.

Born and raised in Soweto Oscar is influenced by the sounds of Stanley Turrentine, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt and our very own dearly departed Moses Khumalo. Oscar made his professional debut in 2003 at the age of 14 playing with the Soweto Jazz Quartet. Since then he has played with a plethora of well established artists including but not limited to Soweto Kinch(UK), Jason Yarde (UK), Louis Moholo, Khaya Mahlangu, Hugh Masekala , Afrika Mkhize etc Oscar has also jammedwith luminaries ranging from Wynton Marsalis, Ravi Coltrane and Dave Koz.


Photographer: Rethabile Phakisi

Musicians: Mandla Mlangeni trumpet, Shabaka Hutchings clarinet, Oscar Rachabane tenor saxophone, Nhlanhla Mahlangu alto saxophone, Ariel Zamonsky bass

Venue: Soweto Theatre September 2015