The New Formation

Benjamin Faconnier Benjamin Faconnier is a trumpet player, singer and music composer born in Perpignan, France. He started playing the trumpet at the age of 17, and it was at the Montpellier conservatory, where he graduated in jazz, that he developed a real interest for improvisation, and for the in-depth study of his instrument. During these years, Benjamin has participated in numerous studio sessions, recording on 16 albums (the last one being his own composition project), and has also performed extensively with various projects he has been a part of, either in his own name or in formations such as The Unknown project (Original Cinematic Concept), The Skamanians (Original Ska), The Carolina Reapers Swing (Swing), L’Orchestre Syncopatique (New Orleans), and more recently the GROô (under the direction of Fred Pallem), to name a few. He has also acquired experience during tours and one-off concerts in France and abroad: Reunion Island, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria, Tunisia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Benjamin draws his inspiration from the music of African- American masters such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, from more contemporary musicians such as Roy Hargrove, Ambrose Akinmusire, Xian (Christian Scott) Atunde Adjuah, but also from Maloya, the traditional music of Reunion Island and its African roots, where he is originally from. All this, leads Benjamin today to lead his first composition project: Papillon.

Siyalo Siyadumisa Sethulo Zulu is a trombonist from Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. He started taking music lessons with his father at the age of 9. First on the trumpet, as it was more suitable for his small size at the time, and then on the euphonium. It wasn’t until he started taking music theory and practice classes at the Siyakhula School of Music that he seriously considered the trombone as his main instrument, already fascinated by jazz music and culture. Soon after, Siyalo was accepted as a full member of the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Wind Band (KZNYWB). After graduating from high school, Siyalo went on to study music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, specializing in jazz composition and arranging as a trombonist, and to this day studies under the tutelage of such great musicians as Professor Salim Washington, Neil Gonsalves, Debbie Marie, Demetrios Fernandez and SIbusiso Mashiloane. Siyalo is also a trombone teacher at Durban boys High School (DHS Musgrave). In 2022, Zulu was selected for the South African National Youth Jazz Band led by Mandla Mlangeni. He has been nominated several times for the Mzansi Musical Instrumentalist Award and won the Best Gospel Brass Award in 2022. Zulu has had the honor of sharing the stage with South African jazz greats like Bra Khaya Mahlangu, Bra Herbie Tsoaeli, Themba Mkhize, Mbuso Khoza, Andile Yenana, Feya Faku, Africa MKhize, Nduduzo Makhathini, among others.

Bucco Bonginkosi Xaba started playing professionally in 1996. He did not start as a self-taught musician, but simply being involved in music being surrounded by people who, like him, saw an interest in playing drums. He has played with prominent jazz musicians including Tlale Makhene, Zim Nqgawana, Khaya Mahlangu (Hugh Masekela’s saxophonist andco-founder of the band Sakhile), Andile Yenana (piano), Mlungisi Gegana (double bass), Feya Faku (trumpet), Moss Mogale Unit, Gerald Clark of Delta Blue, Professor Salim Washington, Jack Van Paul, Zulu boy, Johny Fourie, Steve Dyer, Leon Schurnick, Nokukhanya Dlamini, Selaelo Selota. Bucco has recorded with Jesse Mogale, Cebo Ngema, Khumo Kganyago, Pule Pheto, Gibo Pheto.

Samkelo Njinji, whose real name is Samukelo Siphosenkosi Magwaza, is a South African jazz pianist, composer and arranger based in the city of Durban, Kwazulu Natal, and more precisely in the township of Umlazi. He learned to play the keyboard in church at the age of 12, before joining a school choir and leading an iscathamiya (a style of singing originating from the Zulus of South Africa). From a European perspective, the term a cappella could simply describe this form of singing group). In 2015, he studied jazz piano at Umlazi Comtech, under the teaching of Mr. Xolani Hlongwani. He then went to the BAT center, then to Gamalakhe college under the teaching of the great Andile Yenana. To Durban music school under the teaching of Sibusiso mashiloane, and finally to Central Johannesburg College where he was trained by Maxwell Baloyi, Mr Talent Khoza and Mr Victor Mbotho. In 2017 Samkelo started composing, largely inspired by Bheki Mseleku, Oscar Peterson, Nduduzo Makhatini and Thandi Ntuli. He develops his music according to the concept of Njinji Street. This is the way of healing and love through music. Samkelo Njinji is mainly a jazz pianist, but also ventures into other worlds such as gospel and neo soul. He has performed with Khaya Mahlangu, Salim Washington, Umkhubulwano Jazz ensemble, and MXO to name a few, and has performed at events such as World Sound Concert, Umlazi Jazz Festival, The Playhouse Company, Rhumbelow Theatre, Joburg Theatre. Samkelo Njinji now intends to travel and share peace through his music all over the world.

Thuto Motsemme is a bassist and composer from Kwa-Mashu, in the Kwa- Zulu Natal region of South Africa. He was introduced to music at the age of 13 and participated in local choirs as a baritone singer, which led him to study music afterwards. In 2001, he enrolled in the KZN University School of Music and studied jazz and popular music under the supervision of Phiwe Solomon, his personal bass teacher. He graduated in 2006 with a National Diploma in Music. Thuto has worked with many accomplished musicians in South Africa including Feya Faku, Andile Yenana, Afrika Mkhize, Steve Dyer, Bheki Khoza, Nduduzo Makhathini, Ayanda Sikade, Gloria Bosman and Melanie Scholtz. He has also been a member of the SAPS Brass Band and the Entertainment Band and is currently a member of the Young Lions Jazz Ensemble, a group of young jazz musicians in the country. It was during these years of working with various musicians that he developed his own unique and distinctive sound that draws influence from a variety of music including church hymns, African folk music, avant-garde, hip-hop and jazz.

Mamadou « Paco » Ndiaye is a percussionist from Dakar, Senegal, and his main instrument is the sabar. Coming from a griots family, music has been an integral part of his identity since birth. Before moving to Finland, Paco worked extensively in Senegalese theater projects, where he composed, directed and performed with his percussion ensemble while touring with the companies. Today, he evolves musically in Finland with different musical projects.

Copyright © 2021 Benjamin Faconnier. All rights reserved.
Credits : Artwork – Olivier Bonhomme / Music – Papillon.