Vusi Khumalo

Jazz Drummer - International
Vusi Khumalo


From the tender age of five, Vusi Khumalo knew that he was born to be a musician. To the young lad jazz was a passion rooted deeply inside his soul. Already at that age, Vusi listened to the best of the jazz musicians and entertainers of that era. Amongst his peers, Vusi was known to carry a 45’ vinyl of Jimmy Smith’s Mojo to school. He would also venture out to the legendary saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi’s house just to hear him play his instrument, savouring the late saxophonist’s talent. And so began the musical journey of Vusi Khumalo.

As is the story of many black South Africans during apartheid, Vusi’s family was forcibly removed from their home in the township of George Goch, also known as Klipper Island, to Soweto. Despite the turmoil caused by the politics of the day, it was in Soweto where Vusi first started playing music. Interestingly, his first musical instrument was the bugle, which he played in his new neighbourhood’s marching band. He also became a snare drummer for the same band.

Vusi’s participation in the marching band gave him exposure to top musicians on the jazz scene. He came under the influence of musical greats such as Victor Ntoni, who started running formal classes for musicians keen to learn the technical aspects of music. Another was Nelson Magwaza, a renowned drummer at that time. And thus began his formal music education. From a curious youngster, to a self-taught musician, to an African legend, the road to success was arduous given the constraints imposed by the apartheid system, but driven by passion, commitment and faith, Vusi found his place in the world of jazz.

Vusi’s musical journey has afforded him many opportunities from touring internationally, performing with renowned artists, to sharing his own creative talent with the world. Nonetheless, it is home where his heart lies. The South African music industry still faces a number of challenges, and is not at a point yet where it is optimising local talent to its full potential. Yet to Vusi it is evident that the South African sound has universal appeal as demonstrated by the high and continued popularity of Paul Simon’s Graceland, not to mention the music of Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and others.

Vusi believes that it is for all concerned in the industry to find ways to invest in identifying new talent and developing new and established talent for local and international markets. He will keep on doing his part in this by encouraging and mentoring young musicians, while continuing to create, discover and explore his talent and love for music.

Vusi is considered one of the best drummer/composer/ arrangers in South Africa. He follows in the footsteps of 60s legendary jazz drummer Early Mabuza, to become one of the front leading drummers of his generation. Over nearly three decades, Vusi boasts a respectable résumé that includes internationally renown artists such as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Caiphus Semenya and Abdullah Ibrahim. He was also one of the original members of the band that recorded with Paul Simon on the seminal Grammy awardwinning Graceland album. Vusi has graced a number of bestselling albums locally and internationally. He has toured across the globe, and spent some years in the US sharing his talents from the east coast to the west coast.

Naturally gifted, an achiever and a perfectionist, Vusi has demonstrated himself to be a versatile musician accomplished in various styles of music. He has performed with South African musicians including Winston Mankunku, Bheki Mseleku, Barney Rachabane, Allen Kwela, among others. Internationally he has worked with legends Chucho Valdes, Youssou N’Dour, Bob Baldwin, Donald Harrison, the late Carl Anderson, to name but a few.


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