Swing City was born of the love of swing music from three of South Africa’s most loved artists. A harmless side comment from one musician to another ended up in a serious discussion about producing a three-piece singing group, backed by a full jazz orchestra and band, celebrating their love of jazz, swing, and blues, but adding a modern day twist to the genre.

Swing City consists of Lonehill Estate’s Nathan Ro, whose love for swing music has always engrossed the pop/ rock singer’s iPod; Graeme Watkins, whose background in music and theatre started as a swing singer long before his success on Idols or in his indie rock band “The Graeme Watkins Project”; and Loyiso Bala, whose classically trained background in music saw the singer as part of the TZKee crew, the Bala brothers in classical song and in the pop world in his own successful career.

With that said, we had a quick chat with Nathan Ro:

Hi, Nathan. Nominated for a SAMA. Did you expect to get a SAMA nomination on your sophomore album?

We really weren’t expecting anything but in hindsight, we probably really should have been. Not to blow our own trumpet but it really is a great album. It has been beautifully recorded it and features my two most famously talented friends, Graeme and Loyiso. Most importantly it transports the listener back in time to a place where gleeful nostalgia meets “the good old days.”

How did the idea of Swing City start?

Graeme and I were sitting around a braai together and talking about our fathers. Graeme’s dad had been an upright bass player in a swing band and my own father sang in one. So we were discussing how that genre took us back to Sunday mornings and drives down to Durbs from yesteryear when one of said: “Imagine how fun it would be to have a side project like that”. Our managers (also present around the sizzling boerewors) said it sounded like a great idea and that they knew someone far more famous than us that might be interested. Before we had even met with Loyiso to discuss it, we got our first booking. The rest is history.

What makes you excited to create and release new music in South Africa?

Having traveled internationally and met artists of extremely high caliber’s you start to realize how much talent is in South Africa. It’s like when you go to someone else’s house for dinner and marvel at the burger they serve you because it is different to the lamb shank you eat at home every night. You tend to take what you are used to for granted. So I think SA is starting to realize this fact and it has flung the doors wide open to create new things at home.

How easy or hard is it to get three individuals together from different groups, and perform as Swing City?

Managing calendars can get tricky and complicated but we have some equally amazing stunt doubles like Lloyd Cele and RJ Benjamin that take up the mantle if one of us unable to be there. Swing City really has become its own animal though and so we do prioritize quite a lot.

Any advice or tips for upcoming artists looking to break into the South African music scene?

Make sure you enjoy it! The more you enjoy it the more an audience will. The more an audience enjoys you, well let’s just say you will be busy.

What is next for Swing City?

Well, there have been some international calls made and so we are thinking of taking it on the road. We shall take our lamb shank and go feed it to the rest of the burger eating world 😉

Photos by Ivok Photo