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July 2016. Interview by Marelise Jacobs. Cover: Nomfundo Xaluva - Photograph supplied.

Joy of Jazz has established itself as one of the best musicals on the African continent, thanks to a stellar line-up of musicians from around the globe. This year sees the talented Nomfundo Xaluva performing in solo capacity for the first time. We spoke to Nomfundo about performing with The Graz Roots Project at The Orbit as well as her upcoming appearance at the Joy of Jazz festival in September 2016.

How did you get involved with The Graz Roots Project?

Nomfundo Xaluva: My good friend the curator of the show, Billy Monama, gave me a call saying they've got a project and he would love for me to come and guest on the show at The Orbit and I thought you know, I love the material. I love the concept of performing music of the old greats and I said okay cool I'll try, I'm a bit intimidated by that music but I'll do my best.

“...I believe you've got to earn the stage...” - Nomfundo Xaluva

Why intimidated?

Nomfundo Xaluva: I have such respect and high regard for that music you know the kind of sound that they used and you want to make sure that you pay tribute in the best way possible but also I can't sound like anybody else other than myself, it's going to be Nomfundo's take on the material.

Will we hear songs from your new album, From Now On, at the Joy of Jazz Festival in September?

Nomfundo Xaluva: I'm going to do a combination of the two albums, Kusile and From Now On. You want to bring the best of both into one show however I think the repertoire will lean more towards From Now On as it is more recent. In a way the two albums tie in together. I like to put my gigs together in such a way that the music ties in together and that it follows a particular tragectory.

I always try and weave the music in such a way that it extends to the listener and not just song after song after song for the sake of it. I really try and put a lot of thought in the song selection and how one song lends itself to the next.

Tell me about your performance at the festival, what does it mean to you?

Nomfundo Xaluva: This is the first time I'll be there in a solo capacity, in my own show. I've sung on the show as part of other projects but this is my first solo appearance and it is extremely exciting. The festival encourages people to submit proposels, if they've got projects or new albums that they would like to perform and in that way I think it makes it easier for the organisers to know and have a broader pool from which to book. So I think I've put in the years.

I've performed at the Joy of Jazz honourary awards, I performed as part of the Brenda Fassie tribute two years ago and then last year I performed the tribute for Sibongile Khumalo on heritage day so I've ploughed in and I think they've recognised that and said okay you know what, she was willing to put in the work year after year and now I think I'm a bit more established and solid as a performer.

I think they've recognised that and said it's time, so they approached me and said let's do this thing and I was like yeah, finally! You've got to earn it, I believe you've got to earn the stage, especially a stage as big as the Joy of Jazz. You've really got to work you're way up.