Shwabada: The Music of Ndikho Xaba
dir. Nhlanhla Masondo, South Africa, 2016, video, 90 mins.
In conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary Art’s exhibitions The Freedom Principle and Endless Shout, and with Ars Nova Workshop, the ICA and International House are pleased to present a screening of Shwabada: The Music of Ndhiko Xaba, followed by a discussion with the film’s director, along with AACM members George Lewis and Douglas Ewart and Carol Muller, a Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania who has published widely on South African music.
Shwabada: The Music of Ndikho Xaba is an inquiry into the music of composer, multi-instrumentalist and political activist Ndikho Xaba, a musical ode to a man "whom ‘jazz’ is much too small to define." A multi-instrumentalist, music historian and philosopher, Ndikho Xaba has led an extraordinary life dedicated to music and Africa. The documentary, directed by Nhlanhla Masondo, includes rare archival footage of his early performances and accolades from some of South Africa’s greatest musical icons, using the structure of Xaba’s long sought-after 1970 album Shwabada to tell his fascinating but little-known story. From his roots playing an organ at home to international stages, some shared with Sun Ra, he has created music described as spiritual, eclectic and groundbreaking. His first public performance in 1960 in ‘Mkhumbane’, the musical written by Alan Paton and Todd Matshikiza, set in motion events that culminated in his exile in the USA, where he led the eclectic and pioneering band Ndhiko Xaba & The Natives. His time in Chicago and his subsequent return to South Africa render precious insights into the history of the country’s performing arts. Shwabada navigates the world of theatre and music to arrive at an intimate portrait of an African artist.
The screening will be followed by a discussion featuring Nhlanhla Masondo, joined by Carol Muller and longtime AACM members George Lewis and Douglas Ewart, both of whom have collaborated with Xaba. Trombonist, composer and pioneer of electronic and computer music George E. Lewis has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971 and went on to become the influential organization’s chronicler with his widely acclaimed book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music.
Best known as a composer, improviser, sculptor and maker of masks and instruments, Douglas R. Ewart is also an educator,lecturer, arts organization consultant and all around visionary.