#MotivationMonday: Simon Nyivana

Sotho Girl Diaries

Interview with Simon Nyivana, Saxophonist, in Partnership with Emirates.

I had the opportunity to interview Simon, one of the Emirates Pursuit of Jazz 2019 winners. Jazz as a genre continues to inspire and unite many people across all ages and backgrounds, which is why I was amazed at this young talent already taking up his space as a winning Saxophonist. He is definitely a talent to be reckoned with and below is how our interview went.


Can you tell us more about yourself and where you grew up?

I’m an independent thinker and I am very much ambitious. I learn more from observation and attentive listening. Growing up having attended church and my very religious background, I became a true seeker of the infinite source of the supreme and ended up shifting away from the boundaries of religion. Taking a more spiritual path, learning more about myself.

Where did your love for jazz music first begin?

My love for jazz music began when I first heard a Sonny Rollins video clip, at the age of 12, where he was playing a tune called St. Thomas. I was intrigued by the way jazz was played so freely and expressively. I now know that this is what I’d love to hear myself sounding like.

How do you think South Africans perceive jazz music?

Majority of the people always go with what is available in their space. It’s not a matter of jazz being boring. The media should promote jazz music as much as they’re promoting other commercial genres, so that people can be familiar with this music.

 What does this win mean for you?

This win means a lot to me. For the most part, it acted out as a very essential confirmation to my career.

What are you looking forward to most?

I am looking forward to more work and being productive with the band. I am grateful for the opportunity; thus, I am going to use this platform to develop and sharpen my craft.

Any highlights of being in the band so far?

Yes, performing at some great festivals and getting to work inside a studio with great engineers, making music with talented musicians in the band and my contribution to making it all work.

What do you think other young people who are interested in jazz should know before choosing it as a career?

Jazz comes from a very honest place; it really allows the audience to dive into the authentic expressions of a musician. Which is why jazz is always meaningful and connects people in a deeper way.

What do you think could be done differently to ensure that more people enjoy jazz?

I always had the feeling that you don’t really get to choose your passion. If it’s something that is what you’d want to wake up to everyday, then allow nothing to interfere in the process. Jazz also requires dedication and discipline, for your own sake.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I see myself in a space where I could produce my very own music and accomplishing my major and minor goals. I’d like to establish a school where I could teach young, aspiring musicians from low – and middle – class families how to perfect the craft. I personally did not have access to vital knowledge at an early stage and so would like to contribute teaching the new generation at an early stage.

What countries are you looking forward to seeing throughout your music journey?

A lot of countries, but mostly Russia, Canada and more developed countries, simply because there is so much to learn from them, so I could gather information and bring it back home to share this knowledge for growth in our country.

Who are some of the jazz musicians you look up to?

Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Immanuel Wilkins, Khaya Mahlangu, Braxton Cook, Kenny Garrett and many more.

Emirates Pursuit of Jazz


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