Spacious, colourful, celebratory, cheeky, and gentle — are a few elements that describe the sound of the local virtuoso, Nobuhle Ashanti. This multitalented artist has made a name for herself as a seasoned pianist, composer, session musician, radio host, and teacher. 

With her first single, ‘Choices’, from her upcoming album due for release on Friday, 18 November, we took the opportunity to chat with Nobuhle about her journey leading up to the recording of her debut album.

Classical Violin, Piano, And All That Jazz

Nobuhle began her musical career at the age of ten. In 2008, she began her classical violin training at Beau Soleil Music Centre. When she took up the piano, she continued to hone her craft in the jazz genre. Nobuhle participated in a number of prestigious youth music programmes, including the Sekunjalo Youth Programme and the Grahamstown National Youth Jazz Festival.

Nobuhle went on to be a performer after she graduated from high school in 2016. She played with other artists as a session musician and with her band, Ashanti Tribe, which she founded in 2018. Nobuhle, however, says she feels more at ease when it comes to playing with Ashanti Tribe because it is where she can express herself as an artist — even though the collective’s members are constantly changing.

“I feel more relaxed when I perform with my band, Ashanti Tribe, because I am reassured and I can play however I want to at that moment,” she says. “When playing for other artists, I get a bit anxious, wondering if I am fulfilling my role as their pianist. I wonder if I am supporting them enough. Am I overplaying? Is this performance style and approach appropriate?” Nobuhle continues.

Nobuhle is a musical all-rounder. Besides being a performer, she has also focused on her roles as a composer, radio host, and educator. Her music-writing style often has elements of American jazz, R&B, jazz fusion, soul, and South African jazz. She is the host of her own radio show, Tribal Gathering, which airs on the reputable Hamshack Radio in Cape Town. The Tribal Gathering hosts various artists, and Nobuhle discusses their musical journey. Nobuhle teaches classical and jazz piano to beginner and advanced students — as well as violin.

Making The Right Choices

When it comes to making music, Nobuhle is inspired by the effect music has on its listeners. “Witnessing the joy in musicians and listeners experiencing music and the special kind of healing it provides for everyone in a unique way made me want to contribute to that,” she shares. 

She also massively draws inspiration from a few of her favourite artists locally and internationally — Kujenga, Jodi Fredericks, Sean Sanby, Lu’rah, Lauren Manning, JID, Corrine Bailey Rae, Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Yebba, Mandisi Dyantyis, and Amy Campbell-Buitendag to name only a few. 

This same sentiment was evident in the creation of Nobuhle’s debut single, ‘Choices’. The intention of making the song was to create an audio experience that shows how people feel when they have to make a decision. “Towards the end of the song, it depicts the experience of having to move forward with the choice you have made. The trumpet’s improvisation on the track, played by Shaw Komori, represents the over-thinker’s thought process before and after a choice is made,” she says. 

‘Choices’ was recorded through Concept Records. The recording process, according to Nobuhle, was an incredible experience. “We did about three takes with only the rhythm section, and two more takes featuring trumpet. There are little gems in the song that show we were really listening to each other, which I am sure attentive listeners will appreciate,” she says. Nobuhle gives special mention to the co-founders of Concept Records, Ben Jamieson and Benjy de Kock who elevated the entire single with their special approach to production. 

She was first introduced to Concept Records while “sessioning” for other artists’ records. She describes Concept Records as a hidden gem that she is very grateful to have found. She had a lot of nerves about recording her debut album. However, finding Concept Records made the experience less daunting. 

[Benjy de Kock and Ben Jamieson, co-founders of Concept Records. PHOTO: Dan Meurer]

“There was a light-heartedness, accommodating, and inspiring energy about the space that reeled me in. It truly was one of the best decisions I had made in my career thus far,” she says. “I will never feel that showing my appreciation for Ben and Benjy is overrated. They are brilliant beings, and I am lucky to have collaborated so closely with them,” she continues. 

‘Choices’ features the talented musicians Shaw Komori, Sean Sanby and Kurtie B. Nobuhle says the decision for them to feature on this track came naturally. “These artists are like kids when they play a song they enjoy. I really mean it in the best way. It is my favourite quality in an artist,” she says. “I really needed pocketed players who were ready to let loose yet still try to push their creativity and spontaneity,” Nobuhle continues. 

Deep Diving With Nobuhle Ashanti

Nobuhle Ashanti
[Nobuhle Ashanti poses for Bandile during a promotional photoshoot. PHOTO: Bandile Mdoda]

Nobuhle has had an illustrious career in South African music and continues to grow and strive for more. This, however, does not mean it has come without some bumps in the road. 

Nobuhle is open about the fact that she is her biggest critic. She overcomes this with the humility of a true creator, though. “I eventually decide to just go for it and be sure to surround myself with people who allow me the space to be vulnerable about these insecurities and whose guidance, opinions, criticism, and input I feel I would openly receive and trust,” she says. 

It is also no secret that paving the way for yourself as a musician comes with some financial backlash. Nobuhle does not shy away from this either. “Sadly, living with financial security has been inconsistent as an artist in Cape Town. This year, I have been firm in communicating my preferred rate for various corporate events, studio [work],  and teaching,” Nobuhle shares. 

Even with all of these problems, Nobuhle has had some career high points that far outweigh the challenges. Nobuhle has performed at some of the most noteworthy venues in Cape Town. She boasts performances at The Blue Room, The Commons, café Roux and Zeitz MOCAA. “I have been lucky to have shared wonderful, tear-jerking performances at each of these venues. They are the first venues I would recommend to anyone looking to perform or enjoy live music. I am a sucker for an intimate performance or set-up. Each of these spaces provides me with that comfortable and really beautiful experience. Shout out to these venues!” she says. 

Another triumph for this talented musician was performing with the Johannesburg-based performance art ensemble, The Brother Moves On. “I am a fan of their released works and am so extremely fortunate to have [been] featured as a guest in one of their shows. Their music moves me, and it was a pleasure getting to share space with them in rehearsal, in the green room, and on stage. They are a brilliant collective and really beautiful people,” she shares. 

Forming the Ashanti Tribe is another successful project in Nobuhle’s line of accomplishments. Creating a movement and a space that allows artists to come together and celebrate each other’s craft is a beautiful thing in any local music space. “What I love about the fluidity I have initiated is how the outcome of the music is never the same at each gig. Each artist brings something different to the table, and it keeps me on my toes,” Nobuhle says, commenting on the Ashanti Tribe.

What Is In The Works

Nobuhle Ashanti
[Nobuhle Ashanti ‘I Am’ promotional photo shoot. PHOTO: Bandile Mdoda]

Nobuhle’s debut single, ‘Choices’, is due for release on 18 November. Her full album will be released in March 2023, and each month until then, a single from the album will be released. 

The album will be accompanied by a documentary, which has been workshopped by Nobuhle and her editor and colleague, Cian Small. “Cian and I have spent many a night making sure the documentary translates the album’s journey authentically. The screening will take place next year, along with the release of the album. We are so excited!” she says. 

As for Nobuhle’s future plans, she does not want to put too much pressure on herself and her journey, but she shares a snippet of what her future could potentially look like. 

“I would like to have travelled a lot more, touring my music and the music of fellow artists. I would also like to curate workshops about diverse topics that would be open to the public, still lend a hand to artists who seek creative guidance, actively teach music, and fulfil my role as part of the Concept Records team,” says Nobuhle. 


It’s a good thing I’m better at my job than I am at driving. Otherwise, we’d all be in big trouble. On the note of things I enjoy more than driving, the local music scene is very dear to my heart — put me in a crowd in front of a band instead of behind the steering wheel any day of the week.

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