Soweto-born Tlale Makhene is one of South Africa’s sought after percussionists, who moved to Swaziland at a tender age of four and began drumming. He was inspired by the drumbeats and dance rhythms done by his then traditional healer maternal grandmother. Highly regarded by his peers, in the music fraternity and fans. He began playing drums in church as well as leading the drum majorettes at school. After leaving school, he returned to his birthplace Soweto, South Africa in 1992 and began studying percussion full-time at the FUNDA Center. His grandmothers influence is attributed to facilitation his passion for drumming, and pursuing a calling in this field.
His professional journey took shape when three Danish drummers known as Drums Across were conducting workshops to scout for talent in South Africa. They were highly impressed, to the point of identifying and affording him the opportunity to hone his talent and invited him for a tour starting in West Africa; to later invite him to return with them to Denmark for three months and work on musical projects. He joined them and went to record in Denmark. This afforded him an opportunity to collaborate with John Sund, Yasser Pino, Rune Thorsteinsson (pianist), Carsten D among many others. While in that Denmark, he performed with the Copenhagen Rhythmic Conservatory Big Band and taught rhythmic workshops in Copenhagen as part of a cultural exchange program. He recorded six tracks for his album “Ascension of the Enlightened” in Denmark before completing the project in South Africa. He came back home and recorded some of the tracks at SABC studios in Johannesburg. The album was produced by Africa Mkhize.
In 2005, he won the MTN SAMA Award, the highest accolade in South African music awards in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album, contending with established artists such as Hugh Masekela, Paul Hanmer, Water + Lights and Themba Mkhize – a testament to a man who puts his faith in the hands of his provider.
He has thus far released two albums, Ascension of the Enlightened, in which his ancestors communicated to him in an intimate manner, which he later translate to a highly appreciated album to his fans; as well as Swazi Gold, which pays homage to his maternal ancestry from Swaziland. In the former album, the dedication was to his paternal ancestry in South Africa, which brought about his own transcendence and enlightenment to his calling. The later album is based on the music he grew up listening to and that has had a great impact on his career path. This has also afforded him the opportunity to tour some of the SADC countries, such as South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique to date.
He has performed on local and international stages, such as the South African Joy of Jazz, Idols Seasons 1 to 3 (as an in-house resident percussionist), 46664 Mandela performing with Corinne Bailey Rae, among others. Some of the artist that he has collaborated and worked with, include Johnny Clegg, Judith Sephuma, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu & Caiphus Semenya, Sibongile Khumalo, McCoy Mrubata, Stompie Mavi, Kalawa production musicians, Dan Selsick, Angelique Kidjo, Manu Dibango, Andy Narell, Paul Hanmer, Keiko Matsui, Cora Coleman to mention but a few.
Among the projects that he is working on are with William Kentridge on his work Refuse The Hour for seven years, a series of works called “Less Good Idea”, and on his latest work, The Head & The Load; a collaboration with Dan Selsick on a Library Music Album; with vibraphonist Stefon Harris; Rufus Ried, Pharao Sanders; Keiko Matsui, toured with Johnny Clegg in North America and France; works with Andy Narrell. He has also been a composer and producer for Kwani Experience, Putuma Tiso, Pearl Afrique, Bham Ntabeni and Xolani Sithole. He worked as a composer for Takalani Sesame.
Tlale is a versatile musician/performer in his own right, producer, composer, session musician, and tutor. He draws his inspiration from traditional-, world- and jazz-music. There is no ‘boxing,’ nor hindering this talented gem, who has earned himself a the title of “The Groove Master” among his fellow compatriots.