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Feeln on the 5th Online promotional event for the FEELn festival
Feeln festival

Promotional Launch of the FEELn festival

Azah Music

Azah Mphago

Multi-insturmentalist 

Tinyiko Given Mphago also professionally known as Azah Mphago (meaning complete or satisfied) is a Pan-Africanist expert percussionist, vocalist, conservationist and sonic healer whose music uses trans-disciplinary creative practices of ritual performance, clinical improvisation, pedagogy, activism, theatre movement and multimedia. Azah is a versatile and eclectic musician said to be one of South Africa's finest
percussionists of our generation – and for a good reason. Born in South Africa's jazz capital, a township called Mamelodi (meaning mother of melodies) in Pretoria, the masterful singer/songwriter formed a decidedly passionate bond with drums when he was eight years old, drumming for Sangoma (diviner) initiates who were in a trance state at his family home which was always packed with patients who had come for spiritual consultation. He would later use these drumming modalities for healing and creation of distict ancestral sound.

Azah is a culminating side man to the legendary exponent of Malombo(ancestral spirit) music ensemble, Dr Philip Tabane – a moment he cites as his proudest. He is a scholar of African history and Indigenous knowledge systems, universal alternative alchemic practices and modes of communication around sound healing and social development. Azah pursued Musical Theatre studies at the Tshwane University of Technology and has travelled at home and abroad Performing in Europe, Asia, South America and other parts of Africa. He has shared his creative abilities with many creative alumnae within the African continent and world over such as, Omar Sosa,
Kuniyuki Takahashi, Akua Naru, Pops Muhammed, Dr Vusi Mahlasela, Lefifi TladI, Eric Paliani and many others.

His solo career sought the genius virtuosity of a Pan-African ensemble of the continents finest musicians including the diaspora, from places such as Zimbabwe, Congo, Nigeria, America, Togo, Ghana. His music has gained a cult-like following over the years preforming around the world. The music infuses the use of classical and indigenous instruments from various cultures with a meticulous envisaged outcome and objective. From his childhood Azah considered music to be a weapon and a voice, an extension to put across spiritual message and was very particular about the frequencies that
comes with making music. The onto-epistemological and cosmological trajectory and
preservation of a such counter- imperialistic esthetic and narrative that is black consciousness and afro-centric. His therapeutic and spiritually engaging sound permeate a mixture of genres such as Malombo, Spiritual Jazz, Avant-Garde, Highlife, Afro-beat, Dinaka and Epic Poetry.

Amongst other things Azah has been involved in local and international collaborations, leadership programmes, activations, environmental awareness campaigns, workshops, lectures at various universities, symposiums, social development projects, webinars, seminars, outreach programmes, writing and directing musicals for stage, writing music scores for film and documentary, child and youth care work, family preservation, mentorship for youth first time offenders in the restorative justice system.

Although Azah has been in the music scene for a long time as a sideman on various bandstands and has appeared on many stages, his debut album Batswadi with hits like Marikana was released in 2017. In the recording of Batswadi, he involved musicians from across the continent and brought to the fore common histories, cultures, struggles and spiritual traditions, the album went on to receive the SATMA award for best African Jazz album.

Azah has advanced his talents to some of the best-selling Afro pop/Jazz albums, more notably Thandiswa Mazwai’s Ibokwe and Simphiwe Dana’s Kulture Noir, Nono Nkoane's True Call, Indwe's self-titled album Indwe and several unreleased works with Lefifi Tladi. He also continues to be booked out for musical and theatre shows and major festivals across the country. Azah was headhunted as the Musical Director for one of the most important stories in the landscape of South Africa’s social narrative. Khwezi – Say My Name is a stage adaptation of the remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, a book by Redi Tlabi. He composed beautiful, soul-stirring
music that chronicled her journey of loss, pain, rejection, victory and emancipation which set the spiritual backdrop to this critically acclaimed, moving play which previewed at the South African State Theatre to a packed audience. For this, he has been nominated for the 2019 Naledi Award for the Best Original Score. He has produced and directed a well-received play called Mma-Melodi: The Spirit of Malombo, a multi-disciplinary musical production celebrating Mamelodi’s rich cultural tapestry and socio-political heritage. The showcasing of the production for Mzansi Fela Festival was coincided with the renaming of the Rendezvous theatre to Malombo
theatre. Azah participated in the creation of two wildlife, climate and environmental awareness productions wherein he composed sonic scores for an illustration/film and a documentary about saving the elephants from captivity and the Musina Makhado special zone project which was a protest in solidarity to the community against a Chinese company which sought to destroy large forest and natural habitat of wild life and indigenous plants to create a nuclear power plant. He has composed music for Tsodio, a film by Rangoato Hlasane that takes a kwaito classic, Tsodio, as a song-being that narrates movements and biographies; conquests and nam
ings; defeats and reclamations; returns and ancestries. Moreover, Azah also composed sonic scores for dance/movement pieces Ketima by Gregory Maqoma, which was performed before many audiences across the world and won many international awards and during the Covid 19 lockdown he created a clinical improvised score for Mamela Nyamza's Pest Control, which premiered at the National Arts Festival as a virtual showcase. At the Moshito music conference, Azah headlined the event with a collaboration performance with the Chinese Guodong Music & Art orchestra conducted by Li fubi.

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