If you think the double bass is a boring instrument, that’s only because you haven’t heard Benjamin Jephta playing it.
He was the winner of the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz and at 24 he’s brought fresh life to the double bass and the electric bass, which he has played in public since he was 15 years old.
In 2014 he graduated from The University of Cape Town and moved to Johannesburg, where he regularly performs at venues around the city. His band the Benjamin Jephta Quintet features Kyle Shepherd on piano, Marcus Wyatt on trumpet, Sisonke Xonti on sax and Sphelelo Mazibuko on drums. They released their debut album Homecoming in 2015, of which Jephta says: “I wanted to explore my own history and incorporate it into this sound. Having been raised on the Cape Flats in Mitchells Plain and coming through the church, I want to give the listener a musical biography of my life by using the harmonies and melodies associated with that upbringing. As an artist, I believe one should create music that is significant firstly to you.”
In 2016 he was named both the Male Artist of the Year and the Songwriter of the Year in the Wawela Awards run by the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) and he was also one of the main acts at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
He became Africa’s representative in the United States on the OneBeat programme, which involved an artist residency and a tour of the States with 25 musicians from 17 different countries. He has also been the resident bassist for Bantu Hour on SABC 2.
Jephta has performed extensively in Africa and abroad, playing at music festivals in Kenya, Mauritius, Switzerland and Sweden.
“I create music to motivate, inspire and transport people,” he says. “I am constantly evolving and find myself definitely influenced by a lot of popular culture. I really dig hip-hop, rap, electronic music, folk and rock. My music has become an amalgamation of this.”
His current plans are to perform and tour more and to host his own events with other musicians in unconventional spaces. “I also want to start collaborating with artists outside the jazz genre and work on releasing a few singles and music videos,” he says.
— Lesley Stones
Twitter/ Instagram: @benjaminjephta