Sipho Kunene was born in Cape Town, South Africa and now calls New York City home. He has lent his drumming skills to a diverse assortment of musical situations over the course of his career.
Sipho spent many years with rising star keyboard phenom Matthew Whitaker’s Trio. The group has done many European tours as well as trips to Australia, Indonesia and Canada performing at various jazz clubs, concerts, and festivals. Some festivals performed are the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Atlanta Jazz Festival and many others both domestically and internationally.
For one and a half years Sipho performed with the great South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, (formerly known as Dollar Brand), as a part of the Abdullah Ibrahim Trio. A live CD, “African Magic”, was recorded in Berlin, Germany for the Enja Record label. On occasion the trio's performance was embellished with orchestra to perform Ibrahim's "African Suite". "African Suite" performances included accompaniment by the Orchestra National de Lyon in Lyon, France and the Verdi Chamber Orchestra in Milan, Italy among others.
Sipho has also toured extensively with legendary South African trumpeter and pioneer Hugh Masekela doing concerts, clubs and jazz festivals both in the USA and abroad. Sipho can be heard on the
title cut of the Hugh Masekela CD "Uptownship"on RCA Records.
He was also drummer for “Three Mo’ Tenors” for a two year block.
"Three Mo' Tenors in Concert" was taped for PBS Television’s “Great Performances” airing in all USA markets. A self-titled CD was recorded on the BMG/RCAVictor record label.
Sipho worked with The Harlem Gospel Choir who after a tour of the Blue Note Jazz Clubs in Japan and a two week tour of Italy proceeded on to Malta where they were featured as special guests at “The Malta Music Awards” (broadcast on MTV Europe).
He’s also worked with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the amazing acapella group which was part of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” tour, Jennifer Holiday, Ben E. King, the landmark Carnegie Hall production “Black Stars of the Great White Way”, the theatre productions “3 Mo Divas” (recorded live for broadcast at the Denver Performing Arts Center by PBS) and “Cookin’ at the Cookery”,
Sipho spent over six years with Harry Belafonte. Touring took the group to Japan, Africa, the Carribean, Canada and Europe many times over. A live concert video entitled "Global Carnival" was recorded at the "Children on the Front Line Music Festival" in Harare, Zimbabwe which aired on PBS. The group also did many television appearances around the world and in the US including "The Tonight Show". While Sipho was with Belafonte a CD was recorded live in Germany for the EMI Germany record label.
Sipho was mentored by master drummer and percussionist “Papa” Jo Jones and is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
Photograph: Bric TV
Photograph: julie fowells