Tlale Makhene
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Tlale Makhene

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa | MAJOR

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa | MAJOR
Band World Adult Contemporary


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Ascension of the Enlightened (2004)



Gentle, focused and extremely wise for his years, he renders his listeners calm with his confident, soft-spoken voice. One of the finest jazz album releases around, one can sense his strength of a character through the music. With many Latino influences, beautiful piano pieces and soothing African vocals, the album is a far cry from simply a drumming album – it is a celebration of musical styles. A fusion of raw talent and honed skills, blending with the traditional elements that make these songs some of the best loved around.

His spiritual album, The Ascension of the Enlightened, is a sincere offering from a truly enlightened man. Born in Soweto, Tlale moved to Swaziland at a young age and began drumming at the age of four. Tlale Makhene has indeed been blessed. As a debut album, the quality and sophistication of the Ascension of The Enlightened is ageless and will be loved by many generations to come.

The album was nominated and won the MTN SAMA award for Best contemporary Album. He was contending this category with established artists such as Hugh Masekela, Paul Hanmer, Water + Lights and Themba Mkhize.

When asked about the meaning of “The Ascension of the Enlightened”, he said? “The Enlightened beings such as guardian angels, ancestors and of course God, rose up for this occasion”. They opened up opportunities for this project to happen. They chose for this to happen to me now, not only for me but for art and music all across the world”, he says.

With a sangoma (traditional healer) for a grandmother, it was important for her to dance and communicate with ancestors through drumbeats. Tlale began playing drums in the church as well as leading the drum majorettes in his school. After leaving school he returned to Johannesburg, Soweto, in 1993 and began studying drumming full time at the FUNDA Center.

Tlale had already been spotted by one of Gallo’s record executives who expressed interest in recording his work. On leaving for Denmark it was discussed that Tlale would record some songs whilst overseas for the forthcoming album. Within the three months he spent there, he recorded six songs with Drums Across, adding two additional pianists and two bassists to the mix.

The rest of the tracks were recorded at SABC studios in Johannesburg. Produced by Africa Mkhize, the album is a mix of some of our most loved songs, reworked and recorded with a slightly jazzier feel.

“I jazzified them”, he chuckles, “not throwing away the traditional part of the song, but rather adding more harmony to open them up to international markets”.

Through the many workshops that Tlale held and attended, he came across a group of three Danish drummers known as Drums Across. They had been recruiting drummers in the country and naturally, Tlale came highly recommended for the group. Starting in Guinea, the group traveled around Africa looking for talent to work with. He was invited to perform, acquire more skill in contemporary musicology with them in Denmark for three months. This afforded him an opportunity to collaborate with John Sund, Yasser Pino, Rune Thorsteinsson (pianist), Carsten D among many others. His work ethic permeates without him having to blow his own horn. Tlale went on and performed with the Copehagen Rhythmic Conservatory Big Band and taught rhythmic workshops in the Copenhagen as part of a cultural exchange program. Subsequently Tlale left with the Copenhagen Big Band and went to record in Denmark.

Tlale talks about his grandparents, great grandparents and his father in particular when he refers to the ancestors. He strongly believes drumming is the path they want him to be on.

He says that, drumming is therefore a channel leading to his spiritual journey.

Tlale Makhene has toured nationally with Keiko Matsui (Japan) as well as performing in her new album called MOYO, where he got to work with Derrick Nakamoto who has been a long time producer for Keiko Matsui. He also performed with Pharaoh Sanders Corrine Bailey (U.K), Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Jamalia (U.K) during the 46664 concerts. Tlale was part of a performance at a World Economic Forum in an Ensemble led by Caiphus Semenya and directed by Quincy Jones. Other members of that ensemble were Arturo Sandoval, Bashiri Johnson, Branford Marsalis, Louis Nash and Herbie Hancock.

On 14th November 2009 he directed Tihlabani Awards ceremony and directed the music for the awards in Swaziland. In the same year directed the Zone6 Soccer Games (LOC) in Swaziland. On the 30th November 2009 he further directed the entertainment for the Coca-Cola World Cup Trophy viewing in Swaziland at the Mavuso Trade Center. Then in 2010 he produced and directed the jazz festival for the SwaziExpo with artists such as McCoy Mrubata, Paul Hanmer, Simphiwe Dana, Flo D, and Shannon Modday. On that occasion he put together a mix of Swaziland’s rhythm section and South Africa to create a level where both artists from South Africa and Swaziland could exch