Zulu-Jazz pioneers, Ubunye, to release eponymous debut album

April 2022 marks the release of the new self-titled album from vibrant seven-piece Afro-jazz band Ubunye. Featuring three powerful vocalists from South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal region combined with a dynamic rhythm section from Leeds, Ubunye’s music is a unique blend of contemporary jazz, Afro-pop and traditional ‘Isigqui’ Zulu music.

Their inspirational fusion of jazz, dance and afro-beat that encapsulates the soul of South Africa, is swiftly winning the band a legion of fans across the UK and beyond, having headlined the both the Manchester and Lancaster International Jazz Festival’s, as well as selling out Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club. Now with their new album, Ubunye immortalize the energy and spirit of their revered live shows on a recorded body of work that is destined to attract further positive attention to their distinctive, high-energy sound.

Ubunye (loosely translated as ‘Oneness’ or ‘Unity’) is the conception of keyboard player and lead songwriter David Evans, who first collaborated with baritone singer Xolani Mbatha at a festival that he was running in Leeds. Having put together a successful project for the festival, the working relationship between Evans and Mbatha flourished, eventually resulting in the recruitment of their most talented colleagues, consisting of the renowned bassist Kenny Higgins (Corrine Bailey Ray / Hassan Erraji / The Haggis Horns), distinguished Leeds musicians Nik Rutherford and Alex Wibrew on guitar and drums respectively, as well as singers Nokuthula Zondi and Thandanani Gumede, who as a trio (along with Mbatha) perfectly complement each other and provide a robust sonic force that is as soulful as it is compelling.

Having formed a group like no other, they then set out refine their synergy through a progressive series of outstanding live shows, until the recording of their eponymous debut album organically became a necessity. 

A joyous celebration and proof, should it be needed, of the creative energy and unity possible when cultures meet through the medium of music.

Steve Mead, Artistic Director, Manchester Jazz Festival.

In the moment, it seemed hard to believe that anything so propulsive and joyous could come to a halt. Thesame could be said about the applause and shouts that followed. No one who hadn’t heard them perform before could quite anticipate the ways in which Ubunye would be remarkable.

Wakefield Jazz

The music on Ubunye’s album will undoubtedly speak for itself and is destined to become an important milestone as the world enters a new year of hope, optimism, and love. For those who like to explore jazz music in its broader terms this album will not disappoint. The energy is palpable, the singing fizzes with a vocal vibrancy not heard often enough in fusion music. This is an album to be enjoyed and shared and played with the volume dial set at 11.

Musicians: Xolani Mbatha, Nokuthula Zondi, Thandanani Gumede – vocalists; David Evans – keyboards; Nik Rutherford – guitar; Kenny Higgins – bass; Alex Wibrew – drums

Tracklist: 1. Ubunye. 2. Rain. 3. I’ll Sing for You. 4. Unity. 5. Try to Notice. 6. Meet You in the Morning. 7. Come Find Me. 8. Our Time.

Engineered, mixed and produced by Sam Hobbs @ rebel elements, wharfedale.  Co-produced – David Evans and Kenny Higgins.

Mixed by: Sam Hobbs. Mastering by: Carl Rosamund RRS Music & Media.

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