Introducing: acoustic guitar visionary & urban mythologist Sibusile Xaba

Introducing: acoustic guitar visionary & urban mythologist Sibusile Xaba

Mon Oct 15th

With a wonderful blend of African folk, flamenco, bossa nova and jazz, Sibusile Xaba is slowly conquering the hearts of audiences outside of his home country South-Africa. His sound - both playful and spiritual - rises above natural life, respecting his ancestors and the universe in general. In Xaba’s own words: “I believe that I was chosen to create music that encourages love, peace, and happiness.”

Growing up in the Kwazulu-Natal area with his dad loving jazz music and his mom singing in church, Sibusile Xaba was always surrounded by music. In high school he was very much into kwaito - a variant of house music featuring the use of African sounds and samples - and the traditional township dance called pantsula. At home, Xaba made toy guitars. When he went to a pop music school in Tshwane, that's when he started playing guitar properly. Later, Xaba went to the Tshwane University of Technology to study music.

By singing in Zulu – actually mimicking his twangy acoustic guitar tone, laughing, declaiming and weeping over the tracks –, and a guitar style that is rooted in expressive picking, Xaba follows the footsteps of his former mentors, Zulu guitar giant Madala Kunene and the legendary Dr Philip Tabane. Nevertheless, Xaba absorbs their influences with a mythology and improvisational intensity all of his own. These influences resound in his debut (double) album ‘Open Letter to Adoniah/Unlearning’, described by The Guardian as “an astonishing debut from a unique talent”.

“‘Open Letter to Adoniah/Unlearning’ is an amazing project rooted in the freedom of improvisation and spirituality which addresses issues of maturity and mythology. This spellbinding piece of music is definitely one of the most bewitching and exciting records you would hear for a long time to come.” - DANDANO

‘Open Letter to Adoniah’ arose from dreams revealed to Xaba over four consecutive days. Xaba: “I’d sleep, dream of the songs, wake up, pick up my guitar and put the song down as though the dream was continuing.” Most of the album was recorded in the mountains of Magaliesberg, near Johannesburg. Together with percussionists Thabang Tabane and Dennis Moanganei Magagula, Xaba alludes to the tradition of Maskandi, a musical style from the KwaZulu Natal midlands from where he originates, as well as the improvisational culture of South Africa's jazz avant-garde. The inspiration for ‘Unlearning’ was a little less spiritual. The album is about Xaba wanting to change the world and shows him exploring the limitations of language and instead ignoring expected roles that are assigned to guitar and voice in music.

"Sibusile Xaba, I think he’s one of my favorite musicians around today. The lesson he taught me is that music is supposed to be about joy. It's supposed to be a joyous celebration of the act of what you're doing." - Shabaka Hutchings in our video portrait

Sibusile Xaba’s performance at Le Guess Who? 2018 is curated by Shabaka Hutchings. This curated program also features a.o. King Ayisoba, BCUC, Kadri Gopalnath, DJ Noss, Paddy Steer, Orchestra of Spheres, Ill Considered, Kojey Radical and many more.