The beat goes on


Rhythm is at the heart and fingertips of drummer Myele Manzanza.

It also flows through his blood. The composer’s father, Sam Manzanza, is a djembe drummer, one of the first people to bring African music to New Zealand and help make it popular.

Sam, originally from the Congo, is likely to have jammed with many of NZ’s biggest names in music at one time or another.

It seems only natural Myele, who grew up in Wellington, would go on to become a professional percussionist, which he has in his own right.

Just a few weeks ago, the drummer and producer dropped his third solo jazz album, A Love Requited, and he’s currently on an NZ tour to promote its release.

“I’ve always had percussion around me.

“My dad would rope me into his African drumming classes, and if it was school holidays and he was on tour, I would go along with him,’’ Myele says.

His musical career, however, started out in the string family, learning the guitar.

But after starting drum kit lessons at age 14, “a relatively late age in the professional musician world’’, the artist instantly felt at ease with the instrument.

Myele went on to study jazz at the NZ School of Music in Wellington, where he rode the wave of hype around local bands bubbling away in the capital about 10 years ago.

While at university, he founded several high-profile bands, including Electric Wire Hussle, which gained loads of attention around this country and overseas. He played with members from Trinity Roots, The Black Seeds and Fat Freddy’s Drop.

“I was having formal training at university but I was also getting on the job, hard-knocks training outside the university walls,’’ he tells Mountain Scene.

Playing with NZ band Sorceress at Glastonbury, one of the biggest festivals in the United Kingdom and Europe, is nothing to sneeze at, given only a select group of musicians have the honour of playing there.

A Love Requited is a jazz album in essence; however, it boasts a unique style given Myele’s taste in music has been influenced by hip-hop and electronica.

Like life, the album navigates through highs and lows, and it’s nothing short of a musical journey.

Creating the composition was a personal process for the drummer, who says the songs reflect a time when he was going through hardships in personal relationships but also re-evaluating his career in music.

“It was the process of getting over my own sh*t,” he says in good humour.

The nationwide tour sees Myele perform alongside two top-flight musicians — Jonathan Crayford on keys and Johnny Lawrence on bass.

Fans can expect an exciting set, with the trio getting kicks out of improvisation and connectivity.

“We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with every note.

“There is conversation between us which builds into a new place each night, instead of an overly-rehearsed set night after night.

“The creative process is happening right in front of you, and that’s what makes it dangerous and exciting.’’

The trio takes to the stage at 9pm, Sunday night, at Yonder. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased at