Cycles: exploring the intertextual relationships between Bheki Mseleku, Bokani Dyer and Thandi Ntuli

Master Thesis


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Bheki Mseleku was a South African-born jazz pianist, composer and improviser. During his life-time, Mseleku had a prominent career in London and since his death his compositions have been widely performed in South Africa. In the late 1970s he went into exile and moved to London, where he received greater recognition as a composer and performer than in his homeland. From 1991 to 2003 Mseleku recorded six original albums, displaying a lyrical and technical jazz pianism. As a composer, Mseleku was prolific, incorporating a cyclical style with extensive use of harmonic sequences, as is evident in his work Aja (1997). He also employs both Zulu and European musical aesthetics, such as in Celebration (1991), as well as an introspective spiritualism such as in Looking Within (1993) and Meditations (1992). In recent years, there has been renewed interest in Mseleku's music, both from jazz musicians as well as jazz scholars. This research discusses and considers the relationships between Mseleku's compositions and those of younger South African jazz pianists Bokani Dyer (b. 1986) and Thandi Ntuli (b. 1987). Through the use of intertextual theoretical frameworks and jazz analysis, this thesis explores the notion of influence and the dialogical relationships of these artists' compositions. These intertextual structures are paired with a close reading of selected works of Mseleku, Dyer and Ntuli, to critically discuss the posthumous influence that Mseleku has had on two members from a younger generation of South African jazz musicians. This research aims to consider Mseleku's role and influence within South African jazz music. This dissertation deconstructs the intertextual relationship between the music of Bheki Mseleku and Bokani Dyer and Thandi Ntuli. In doing so, this research questions how Mseleku's musical praxis informs that of Dyer's and Ntuli's, as well as how intertextual relationships can be explored through jazz musical analytical methodologies.