Sisonke Xonti


Sisonke Xonti is a saxophonist from South Africa.

He is the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, is an increasingly well-known saxophonist. Few would have guessed, however, that the musician only took up music as a full-time career six years ago, having studied towards a degree in law throughout his university career. 

Throughout his studies Xonti had been performing with friends who were all now playing music professionally, building sustainable careers out of the craft. Xonti made the crucial decision to move up to Joburg in 2013.

While he only took the leap into music as a full-time profession a few years ago, music has been a part of Xonti’s life since childhood. It was at the age of 13 that he discovered the saxophone, and he soon fell in love with jazz. Early signs of Xonti’s talent were his selection for three years to the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band (2004-6), and later his selection twice to the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band under the leadership of Andrew Lilley and Feya Faku. 

Another influential moment came in the form of performing in Jimmy Dludlu’s band which saw him learning from the legendary guitarist as well as performing to audiences across Africa, China, Réunion, Switzerland and more. During his student years, Xonti continued to perform and played frequently alongside South African jazz contemporaries and former Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winners Kesivan Naidoo, Shane Cooper, and Bokani Dyer.    

Following his move to Johannesburg, Xonti connected with musicians Nduduzo Makhathini and Ayanda Sikade who subsequently introduced him to Herbie Tsoaeli. “That’s the energy of Joburg. You meet new people and collaborate constantly. Through Herbie I was able to meet Zim Ngqawana who was one of my greatest inspirations,” says Xonti. 

Finally, a moment that Xonti holds dear to his heart was the 2017 release of his debut album 'Iyonde', named after his own middle-name and meaning ‘to be enjoyed. 

ZABryanston, South Africa
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Sisonke Xonti

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