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Octavia Rachabane

Octavia's interest in music started at the age of 12 when she sung in school concerts at high school. She arranged music of the trends of that time. When watching her father, Barney Rachabane, perform live at the Market Theatre, with Gloria Bosman, Octavia decided she wanted to perform with him. She said, "music was all around me. I was bound to it in a way. I decided that this was the way I want to take. This is where I want to be. I love it, I enjoy it and I would be happy doing it and making money out of it."

After matric, Octavia studied at Pretoria Technikon and started performing professionally.

Octavia has a demo album that is in preparation for release. It was recorded at Chisa Records. Octavia has composed a lot of original material and worked with Glen Mafoke. She performed in Louis Moholo's dedication orchestra and performs alongside her father Barney regularly. Having a father like Barney Rachabane is a great provalege. She says, " I am still learning because he has been in this forever. He has been through it all.He has seen the ups and downs of (the music world) and know exactly what to expect. He has achieved alot. He needs to be recognized much more. While others left the country because they were struggling with their music, he kept on going. He made it and he managed to have a home for us which is very rare when it comes to so called jazz musicians and take us to school and all that. Stability, per se. He has been through, but he has pulled through. And still playing the music and not diverting and saying I am going to get a job from 9 till 5. He knew what he wanted. And he did what he wanted. And he followed his dream and his passion. I am wiling to do the same."

And Octavia's career is going from strength to strength. At the age of 35, she is now stepping out from the side of legendary father and paving her own way. She says, "I want to be an individual. I want to make it on my own.The music is people's emotions, people's experiences. It is their lifestyle. I don't want to follow a certain trend. I want to do me."

 

 

 


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Octavia Rachabane: Vocals and pictured with her band, Thato Modise: Piano, Sipho Dlamini: Bass, Sipho Dube: guitar and Gontse Segone : percussion

 

 

Second Interview Octavia Rachabane
28/08/2015

What is the story of Leonard?

Leonard is the third born of Barneys children. He was about seven years older than me. He played the tenor saxophone. He studied at Natal University. He was good at his craft. Unfortunately he passed on at the age of 26.

He performed a lot even with Mandla Masuko in Durban. He played a lot in Durban and even around here he freelanced a lot. He also taught at FUNDA centre when it was open. He taught saxophone and MANU which is now called, I forgot. He taught at several schools.

He had some compositions, it i just that we don;t have any record of them. The guy who actually had some of his recordings passed on before we could actually get them from him, He lived in our area around Pimville. He was a good musician. The talent was passed on from his dad. Before he died he had a girlfriend called Claire and she actually came to the house at some time. And then she fell pregnant. Leonard couldn't be with her for some reason. She was a cute little young lady. She was white, she was from Durban. They had a child and apparently this child was given up for adoption. He actually told my sister about Claire being pregnant before he passed on. He said he doesn't know how to get hold of Claire but he knows that the child is there. He said he doesn't know what to do, which steps to take so he can see the child and the family get to know the child and maybe connect with them. This year, about a month ago I got a friend request from someone called David Webster. I confirmed the request and then he started asking immediately if I know the late Leonard Rachabane and said how do you know him. And he said, I was told that Leonard is my birth father. I was taken for adoption, the year after I was born and taken to Australia with my adoptive parents. We actually went looking for this child in Durban sometime ago. And with no luck. Barney kept on asking the friends around Durban when he went there to perform with Darius Brubeck and nobody knew anything. They knew the lady but the did not know about he child or they didn't want to tell I don;t know. That is how we got connected with David. He has documents as well saying that his father his Leonard Rachabane.

Leonard fell sick, it was a short illness. At that time he was stressed that he can't find his child and can't find contact with his child. He had stopped playing because he was sick. Before that he had been playing. He died here at home. That is what frustrated my mother as well. And that is what lead us going to Durban to look for the child. She couldn't take it that Leonard was the only boy in the family among three girls.

He was a very sweet person. if he was here you would like him a lot. when we look at the photos of David, he actually has a lot of resemblance to Leonard. David plays violin. He studied music as well in Australia. He will becoming sometime next year, beginning of the year. He is very excited and can't wait to come over. He is working in Australia.

Is there a traditional music, cultural roots link to your music?

I don't know? I would say based on the fact that Barney grew up here and in Alexandria it was naturally installed in him to be African. Even if he might play mainstream jazz, there is that thing that is different from the American playing. That is what makes him unique. I am truly African although I have a lot of influences and I have a lot of things that I really like. I am influenced by both America and Africa. You will hear even in my lyrics there is vernacular.

What is your mother tongue?

Sepedi, North Sotho. My mother is North Sotho and my father is North Sotho, but growing up in Soweto, you get to know all these languages and come across friends who would speak Xhosa and Zulu and all these languages. In Soweto you mix all these languages all together, and Afrikaans as well. Some of the words we use when we speak in the ghetto, we put some Afrikaans words as well. We fuse them in.

Are there any popular artists from North Sotho, Limpopo?

Not really. A lot of people come from the rural areas and come to Joburg and find their ground and create something out of their experiences. The music is about experience and the music you write are about past and present experiences.I used to love Judith Sephuma. She has a lot of North Sotho language in her songs. And this "song for Leonard" has North Sotho in it. It is something like that although it is not exactly the same thing. There is some kind of influence.

Besides the jazz side, I love Jill Scott, I think she does what she feels and not what everybody else is saying to do. Not having all the dancers and what what just to get the money. For the mere fact that she is also a poet, she's informed. She knows how to put words together and write beautiful lyrics. And her style of singing is also influenced by jazz and R & B.

What are you playing on Sunday (06/09) ?

I am doing two or three covers. I am doing Cassandra Wilson, 'Time after time,' originally Cindy Lauper. Cassandra Wilson changed the arrangement and did it nicely. And then there is a Cuban guy called Roberto Fonseca, Cuban pianist. I am going to put in something of his. I am going to scat.

How did you come across his music?

Somebody brought a DVD and I actually fell in love with his music. And that particular song took me.
And then I am playing my compositions. Some of my songs have an African influence. There is one influenced by mbaqanga, the mbaqanga progression. I don't have a title for it. It is a lot like the Miriam Makeba style.

What is the ideal band?

I would probably have horns and I would probably have backing vocalists as well.

How is that music is passed on in the Rachabane family?

I don't know. It just happened. Nobody forced anyone to take music. My didn't say do music. It just came. It is something that we came to love and decided we want to do this. There were no boundaries. Nobody was restricted as to what to do with their lives. The music is continuing because one of my nephews has an interest in drums. Wherever he goes he hits things all over the place, since he was young. He is 14., his name is Kabelo. I don't think he realises it now, but when somebody plays drums you can see he feels something.

First Interview Octavia Rachabane

Your background in the music

My interest in music started when I was 12 and when I got to high school I was doing school concerts. I arranged new stuff and the trends of that time. I never really felt I would take it as a career. It sort of grew in me. Through going to the concerts and my dads concerts and there was one show in particular, SA love at the Market Theatre, which had Gloria Bosman and I thought to myself that I would like to be on that stage one day and maybe one day perform with my dad if I am up to the standard. As time went on and I kept growing in the music and my brother as well in the music, it was all around me, I was bound to it in a way. I decided that this was the way I want to take. This is where I want to be. I love it, I enjoy it and I would be happy doing it and making money out of it. My love for jazz started that time when I was going to the concerts with my dad and seeing people's response and I liked it a lot and felt this is what I want to do.

I decided after matric I would go and study at Pretoria Technikon and from then on I met other musicians and I started performing professionally getting paid for what I was doing and not just doing it for the fun of it. From then on that was it. I never looked back.

As far as this demo is concerned the music was recorded because it was some ideas that I had in my mind that kept coming up and I thought maybe one day I could make an album out of this. It is not easy to make an album and get a record deal or whatever because I have already taken the demo to a few recording companies but there was no response towards that but I am still trying to push and if I get enough money I can do it myself and maybe get to market it and do my own thing. It is a demo, there are lots of songs, there are four. I have a lot of songs that I actually wrote with the help of Glen Mafoke who used to stay here at one of the back rooms. I would take my ideas to him and we would put things together and come up with some nice stuff and eventually we got to go to Chisa Records and just lay down the four that I have right now. Actually there are more.

Have you learnt something from your dads' career?

I have and I am still learning because he has been in this forever. Should someone approach me and say here is a gig, I need to book you for 1,2,3. I will always go up to him and ask him, I am thinking 1,2,3. What do you think? I always ask for his opinion because I think he has been through it all. I have seen the ups and downs of it and know exactly what to expect.

And what do you think your dad still needs to achieve in his life time?

I think he has achieved a lot already. I think he is someone who needs to be recognized much more than he is recognized now and put on some kind of pedestal. While others left the country because they were struggling with their music, he kept on going because he was here. He made it and he managed to have a home for us which is very rare when it comes to so called jazz musicians and take us to school and all that. Stability, per se.

Do you think by giving so much to your dads' career you are undermining you own?

It is not that I am undermining my career. I look up to him a lot because of his experience and what I have seen him go through these years. I am a grown woman. He has been through a lot as well, but he has pulled through. And still playing the music and not diverting and saying I am going to get a job from 9 till 5. He knew what he wanted. And he did what he wanted. And he followed his dream and his passion. I am wiling to do the same.

What will make you stand out in your career?

If I get to do my own music, instead of me being featured in his concerts. Have my own concerts as Octavia Rachabane instead of Barney Rachabane featuring Octavia Rachabane. I want to be an individual. I want to make it on my own.

Do you carry the township jazz label?

I don't know how they labeled it township jazz. He would say it is township jazz because maybe they played a lot in the townships. It started in the townships and all that at that time. But, now it is all over. It is broad. It is bigger than just calling it township jazz. The music is people's emotions, people's experiences. It is their lifestyle.

Your dad is part of the old school of the recording industry. Are you part of the technological revolution?

It looks like if you are under a record label, then they restrict you to what you can do instead of going with what you feel and what you want to do. Doing it yourself, you get to grow as an individual. You are free to do what you want to do instead of being restricted to saying this won't sell. The other thing that makes those record labels which I took my demo to reject me, was because I wasn't of that trend at that time. I don't want to follow a certain trend. I want to do me.

I am working on getting people who are willing to work with me. Money is the only problem. Otherwise I am willing to make it with people who can see into the future that there is actually hope to revolutionise this thing instead of trying to say it is all about money, and if I do this with you, you need to give me money. It is money money all the way. If I can get this going I think I will be a step ahead of where I am now. To get people to work with me without any reservations or saying I will be busy today or I can't come. The other one is going to pay me, so we will see you later because there is no money or funding in this project at this moment.

 

 

 

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