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WHO IS AZAH

Tinyiko Mpho Mphago wa Mabasa also professionally known as Azah is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, musical director cultural activist, educator and philanthropist from the South African Jazz capital Mamelodi in Pretoria. He is a brilliant, versatile and multitalented musician and is known as one of the finest South African percussionists of our generation – and for good reason.  Born onto a family of traditional healers, he began playing drums at the age of 8, and formed a decidedly passionate bond with drums and percussion as not only healing instruments but also as a way of artistic and spiritual expression.

Azah pursued musical training at the Musical Theatre of the Tshwane University of Technology and this gave him the traveling future he had dreamed of, seeing him perform across Europe and South America with Gregory Magoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre productions Ketima and Beautiful Us.  He then joined Dr Philip Tabane’s famous band Molombo – a moment he cites as one of the proudest of his life.  He then formed Azah, the 8-piece band which continued to grow his musical diversity as a singer and composer by exploring and incorporating genres such as high life, soukous, jazz, Afro-soul, Afro beat and indigenous folk sounds into a world music offering.

His debut album Batswadi involves musicians from across the continent and brings to the fore common histories, cultures, struggles and spiritual traditions.  He went on to receive a SATMA Award for “Best African Jazz Album”.  Azah has lent his talents to some of the best-selling Afro pop albums, more notably Thandiswa Mazwai’s Ibokwe and Simphiwe Dana’s Kulture Noir.  He also continues to be booked out for musical and theatre shows 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 Tlapi. 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 packed audiences.

Cultural Activism – Azah has worked as a facilitator (workshops on different ascpects of Indigenous Knowledge Systems) and as researcher (African diasporic studies, Cultural anthropology and Kemetic Science) at the Theosopical Society. In 2010 he founded a multi-disciplinary socio-cultural movement called Capital Arts Revolution with the aim of fostering Pan African artistic unity.  The movement has attracted a multi-national membership of musicians, poets, writers, painters, visual artists, photographers etc. It was followed by Sechaba Sa Rantsho which creates outdoor programmes and camps which connect arts in nature and uses the environment as a reminder of identity and to hold space for exploring cultural issues. This inspired a collaboration with Maibuye, an international organisation through Michigan University comprising of members of the diaspora (mainly from USA, Kenya, Ethiopia and SA). Their aim was to create a cultural exchange of vocational studies.

Educator & Philanthropist– He is a part time lecturer at the University of Pretoria’s Drama department focusing on performance art and embodied work (body resonance and art as a ritual). Azah was a youth educator and mentor for YMCA, SOS homes and has managed the adolescent development programme at the Tshwane Leadership Foundation. One of his biggest achievements there was being responsible for opening the School of Creative Arts, a reformative music school which dealt with skills development, self-awareness, identity etc. through music and art. He has taught music and theatre therapy for a group of schools for the disabled in Europe (mainly in Sweden and Germany), using creative arts as a rehabilitation tool. Part of Azah’s philanthropy work is based on the philosophy of ‘Ithate’ (love thyself) where he visits elderly homes as a way of giving back an energy of love and appreciation to those who have raised communities and villages through musical performances and creative expression.