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| As a little girl, jazz/ r & b vocalist, Natalie Rungan unearthed her life’s dream while singing hymns in church. The Durban born singer-song writer, who is a firm believer in prayer and hard work, has penned and produced her long awaited debut album. “Love is…”, is a contemporary jazz homage to the purity and realities of love was four years in the making.
“ I wanted the ten tracks to express my thoughts and ideas about the many truths and faces of what I believe love to be. I wanted people to see me through the windows of my songs,” she says.
The album, which is produced by the multi-talented Ernie Smith was launched in Durban in 2008. The songs are written in a definite R & B style with subtle African and Indian influences.
Natalie studied music at school and university where she excelled in vocal performance. In 1999, Natalie graduated from the University of Natal with a Bachelor in Music. Natalie taught jazz vocals at the university for seven years in the jazz studies programme. She completed her Masters Degree in Jazz Performance, Composition and Arranging in 2002. That same year, she was awarded best jazz vocalist in the Old Mutual National Jazz Encounters competition.
“Someone once said that my voice has the quality of burnt honey,” she claims. “I think it has many sounds – from sultry, to folk, to husky, to a belting alto. I describe it as sunshine.” Natalie’s range now sits above three octaves.
Natalie’s early love of jazz was ignited by her American-Born jazz vocal teacher Mitos Andaya. It opened a new world of music to the young singer who would never turn back from that moment on. Natalie thereafter spent lonely hours listening to Joshua Redman, Ella Fitzgerald, Dianne Reeves and other greats. While she has performed at festivals which hosted icons like, Al Jarreau, Sibongile Khumalo, Hugh Masekela & Winston Mankunku, she is still a local girl at heart.
The songbird, who is a popular performer in jazz and gospel circles, lists her musician grandfather and her father, who was a drummer in a popular Durban dance band in the ‘70s as her two earliest influences. She also recalls listening to her mum singing church songs in the kitchen during early hours of the morning. This, she believes is what started her journey.
Natalie’s solo career began with the NU Afro Jazz Band headed by Prof. Darius Brubeck in 1998. Her smooth vocal styling honed by hours of tireless practice and superior knowledge of jazz saw her travel from Harare, Zimbabwe to Boston, USA. In New York, Natalie jammed with greats like Larry Ridley, Brian Steele and Michael Rossi.
In Scotland, while visiting the University of Strathclyde with South African stalwarts Melvin Peters, Concord Nkabinde, Mageshen Naidoo and Bernard Ayisa, Natalie was warmly received in local jazz clubs. Natalie was also afforded the opportunity to perform for the presidential dinner of former South African president,Thabo Mbheki.
On a visit to Sweden in 2001, she sang at famous jazz club, Nefertitti as well as the University of Karlsruhe, accompanied by Fabian and Josef Kallerdahl and Michael Edlund. This accomplished trio called Music Music Music, returned to South Africa two years later to perform in both local venues with Natalie, exploring her unique song writing and performance abilities.
Her repertoire and range has seen her perform on stages with Yvonne Chaka Chaka, PJ Powers, Winston Mankunku, Wendy Oldfield and international jazz guitarist, Ronny Jordan.
Natalie has also become an experienced choir director of both the jazz and gospel circuits. She was nominated in 2009 for the Crown Gospel Music Awards in the category of best R & B album.
Since April 2009, Natalie has been signed to the KZN Music House record label under the directorship of world renowned playwright Mbongeni Ngema.