They are probably the best schoolboy jazz bands in the country today. Their live performances are flawless and polished. Audiences are often thrilled by the chord-perfect cover versions of music from such greats as Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Dludlu, Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo.
Since its formation in 2001, the Prince Edward Jazz Band (PE Jazz Band) has become an institution that has provided a solid foundation for many young musicians to enter the music industry.
The band was formed out of Prince Edward School’s effective music programme where music theory is taken as a compulsory subject in Form One.
“There is a lot for students to learn in jazz. It is harmonised music and a rich and colourful genre that has got all the parts.
“Jazz prepares our students to be versatile and to quickly mature in music,” said Elias Mapiye, school’s music director and jazz band coach.
“Our students do not play by ear, but can read music and are able to follow chord progressions,” he said. The school’s music programme also includes practical subjects where students are taught to play the piano, string and wind instruments.
Talented youngsters are identified and encouraged to join various clubs including the marimba band, orchestra, big band and the jazz band. Expectations are high that PE Jazz Band, currently made up of Humphrey Domboka (band captain and lead guitarist), Ndabezinhle Khoza (alto saxophone), Ngoni Gotora (alto saxophone), Takudzwa Manyika (piano), Philani Hlatshwayo (keyboards) and Ziweni Hlatshwayo (drums) would impress judges when they compete at the National Institute of Allied Arts on March 21.
“The band is not run on commercial lines, however, since its formation it has gained much popularity through the quality of music and performances.
“They are in high demand and are booked every weekend, but we always limit performances to make sure the boys have time to study,” said Mapiye.
The school-boy band has been a regular attraction at Harare International Festival of the Arts, Winter Jazz Festival and has performed at several State functions.
The band also performs at corporate and private functions and recently performed at this year’s National Arts Merit Awards.
The PE Jazz Band institution has also received recognition from the diplomatic community. The American, Italian and Spanish embassies in Harare organise annual workshops and collaborative performances with Prince Edward and various bands visiting Harare from their countries.
The jazz band has given a number of aspiring artists a firm foundation in music. This has enabled many of the graduates to pursue further study and different careers in the music industry including teaching and joining church as well as secular bands.
Notable PE Jazz Band graduates include Thabani Gapara, who went to study music at the University of KwaZulu Natal and is now working as a professional musician in South Africa, the late Sam Mutukudzi, Tinashe Mukarakati (St Johns’ School Director of Music), Vimbayi Mukarakati (played saxophone for the band Jazz Invitation and is now teaching music at Harare International School and Peterhouse School) and Obrey Kabambe, a saxophonist who is also a music teacher at Arundel School and St Georges’ College.
Current band captain Humphrey Domboka is one artist to watch over the next few years. The young guitarist is so talented that in 2009 he won a guitar at the Winter Jazz Festival for being the best lead guitarist at the festival. “Being in the band has made me develop and be mature in my approach to life.
Jazz is mature music and I would like to study jazz musicology at the University of Cape Town and become a professional artist,” said young Domboka recently.