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Zim Ngqawana

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  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Zim Ngqawana is one of South Africa's leading jazz musicians. In addition to leading his own band, Ingoma, Ngqawana has played with such influential jazz musicians as Max Roach, Keith Tippett, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Hugh Masakela and with top-notch modern dance ensembles, the Free Flight Dance Company and the Moving Into Dance Company. South African daily newspaper the Star referred to Ngqawana as "the most visible, hardest working, younger man in jazz."

The youngest of five children, Ngqawana didn't begin playing the flute until the age of 21. He advanced quickly on the instrument. Although he left school before completing the university entrance requirements, his obvious talents enabled him to be accepted to Rhodes University. He subsequently earned a diploma in jazz studies from the University of Natal. While performing with the University of Natal's jazz ensemble, the Jazzanians, at the International Association of Jazz Educator's convention, he attracted the attention of American jazz musicians Max Roach and Wynton Marsalis. With their encouragement and support, he received a scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, where he studied with Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef.

Returning to South Africa, Ngqawana performed with bands led by Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masakela. In 1995, Ngqawana toured North America with his band, Ingoma, featuring pianist Andile Yenana. Ngqawana recorded his first two solo albums, San Song and Zimology, in Oslo, Norway, with Yenana and Norwegian musicians Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssan-Love on drums. Norwegian saxophonist Bjorn Ole Solberg was featured on San Song. Ngqawana recorded his third album, Ingoma, in South Africa with his band.