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Victor Dlamini

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Podcast: Fred Khumalo on Music, Writing and Miles

Fred Khumalo Touch My Blood “ ‘Anyway, why do you think you want to write? Other boys like you are playing soccer, chasing skirts and you are wasting your time copying dead white men. Where’s your sense of wonder, sense of excitement?’ ”

– Fred Khumalo in conversation with the poet Mafika Pascal Gwala, p.122, Touch My Blood

Join me on The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast as I chat to Fred Khumalo about his writing – and his obsession with the music of Miles Dewey Davis, the colourful trumpeter who’s known simply as “Miles” to his devoted fans.

Fred’s career spans many fields, but in each he has made a name for himself, whether as a journalist, a columnist or a writer of fiction. Listen to Fred as he reveals the “creative push” that the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane effects in his work.

Fred KhumaloI first met Fred Khumalo in Durban in the early 90’s, when Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison, and there was all ’round us a heady optimism: Apartheid was finally on its deathbed. The two of us were journalists – we should have been young still, but Apartheid had a way of banishing one’s youth together with the freedoms it stole. During the ensuing fifteen years our paths have kept crossing, and since the publication of his debut novel, Bitches Brew, I have wanted to sit down and chat to Fred about so many things, but mostly about writing fiction and his deep love of this beautiful music called jazz.

Fred has always possessed a forthright manner that I admire. In a society that has made an art of political correctness, it is refreshing to come across someone with Fred’s directness. In his column in the Sunday Times, he shows us how to be both funny, truthful and hard-hitting at the same time.

(Incidentally, he also keeps a blog at the Times: click here to read it.)

Bitches' Brew Fred KhumaloWith Bitches’ Brew Fred bares his soul by revealing his love for the beautiful art of jazz. In his characters – the larger-than-life Zakes and his first love, Lettie; the crime King Bhazabhaza; the coterie of bit-part players – Fred has captured something of the infectious hedonism of the late 60’s and early 70’s. He shows us that booze and music were always at the center of lives lived to the fullest, and as we trace the trajectory of the life of Zakes and those around him, we see how the sordid and the sublime often mix without the slightest hint of contradiction.

In the pages of the novel, Khumalo brings us face to face with the ruthless use of power, unleashed with barbaric enthusiasm by the many strongmen that seem to style themselves on the underworld bosses of Chicago’s bootlegging era. It is Khumalo’s skill as a novelist to present these appalling men within the complexity of their own need for love, for recognition, for influence, and in this way make them fascinating characters.

At the end of 2006 Bitches’ Brew was selected for the curriculum of the English Literature course at one of Johannesburg’s leading universities. Khumalo writes for the Sunday Times, but he has also held senior positions at many of the leading publications in the country and abroad, including City Press, UmAfrika and the Toronto Star – and for a brief spell he also ventured into corporate PR.

In addition to a novel, Fred has written and published poetry, short stories and the first part of his autobiography, Touch My Blood (see the representative quote above). His new novel, Seven Steps to Heaven has been selected for the Exclusive Books “List” ahead of its publication at the end of November 2007.

Which brings me to a final note: toward the end of the podcast, you might be able to catch a few bars of the Miles Davis tune of the same name, hummed by both interviewer and his subject, if you listen attentively enough,

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Matome</a>
    November 9th, 2007 @15:34 #

    Bra Victor this is a good post and I believe that most young people will be able to get inspired by your posts especially this one. I personally identies myself with the kind of the books you review on your blog. Some of the authors you interview and write about are very key and they deserve that kind of acknowledgement. Eita Bra Victor!


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