Bokani Dyer was born on the 21st of January, 1986 in Gaborone, Botswana where many exiled musicians and artists from South Africa, including Bokani's father, musician Steve Dyer, were living in exile.
Having musicians around in his early life gave Bokani the profound insight into the life of a musician and sparked a keen interest in pursuing music as a career. After taking up formal piano studies at age 14 for 4 years, he was accepted into the Jazz program at the University of Cape Town where he graduated in 2008 with an Honours degree in Performance and Composition with distinction.
During his time at the college of music, he formed long-lasting musical relationships which have endured to this day. One of these led to the formation of the groove outfit, Soul Housing Project (formerly Plan Be) in 2007 with long-time collaborator vocalist/composer, Sakhile Moleshe. The band continues to be active in different configurations - the full 7-piece band, 5-piece band and then the 2-piece electronic duo most recently performing for the opening of the National Arts Festival 2016 in Grahamstown, South Africa and the Lighthouse Festival in Croatia in May 2016.
Notable awards in his career thus far:
- In 2009 Bokani won a scholarship for further study in the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship competition. He chose to spend 3 weeks in New York where he was tutored by Jason Moran.
- In 2011, Bokani Dyer was awarded the prestigious Standard Bank young Artist award for Jazz, bestowed upon visionary artists like Mark Fransman, Andile Yenana and Kesivan Naidoo in past years.
- In August 2013, he returned and managed to clinch first prize in the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship after competing in the annual competition. He used these funds to visit the UK for a lesson with Robert Mitchell as well as some masterclasses with Swiss pianist, Malcolm Braff in Basel, Switzerland.
He embarked on his first European tour with his Swiss-based quintet in May 2014 visiting Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic and the UK. As a result of the tour, he was invited to perform at the opening of the London Jazz Festival in November 2014 with his own quintet as well as a tribute to South African supergroup, The Blue Notes, led by Shabaka Hutchings.
In July 2015, The Bokani Dyer Swiss Quintet embarked on a 10-show tour of South Africa and Mozambique, performing in Grahamstown, King William's Town, Johannesburg, Maputo and Cape Town.
In October 2015, Bokani Dyer quintet toured Switzerland performing in Basel, Zurich, Bern, Wintethur and Interlaken. In November, Bokani travelled to the UK to collaborate with Harmonica player, Adam Glasser, for some dates around London keeping the spirit of South African Jazz alive.
In April 2016, The Bokani Dyer Trio, took part in the annual Jazzahead showcase in Bremen, Germany.
Dyer has recorded three albums under his own name. His debut album, Mirrors was released in 2010, and provides a strong indication of the style and artistic trajectory Bokani continues to pursue. Emancipate the Story (2011), is a recording made possible by the Standard Bank as part of the jazz young artist award.
His most recent offering, World Music (2015) proves to be a success locally and has received some international acclaim being nominated in the category, Best Jazz Album in the 2016 South African Music Awards. The album features Buddy Wells (tenor saxophone), Justin Bellairs (alto saxophone), Robin Fassie-Kock (trumpet), Shane Cooper (bass), John Hassan (percussion), Lee-Anne Fortuin (vocals) and Sakhile Moleshe (vocals).
“Dyer works with a well-matched crew here, a band that plays to new ideas while also referencing his previous work. Notables from Emancipate The Story—bassist Shane Cooper and saxophonist Buddy Wells—mix with standout newcomers like Fassie-Kock and alto saxophonist Justin Bellairs. Together, they help Dyer to create a brand of music that's as far-reaching as the album title implies, yet firmly rooted in the soil of South Africa.”
Dan Bilawsky (All About Jazz)
“Bokani Dyer’s debut may come to be remembered as sparks that played a role in bringing about a sea of change in the way London and the world view jazz from Africa”
African Jazz Reviews 2014
“Dyer’s music has an emotional depth and lyricism that one imagines any newcomer wanting to embrace”
“His is a strong, individual sound and an emblem of the rise of a new wave of contemporary jazz voices”
Mail & Guardian
“His compositions were strong, and his ability to navigate changing moods and to lead the group were engaging”
London Jazz News
"Bokani Dyer’s debut may come to be remembered as sparks that played a role in bringing about a sea change in the way London and the world view jazz from Africa and become roots of a more Afrocentric, less divided, richer, more diverse type of global jazz."(http://www.africanjazz.info/reviews2014.html#top)
"Astonishing level of fluidity in his playing."(http://www.africanjazz.info/reviews2014.html#top)
"His is a strong, individual sound and an emblem of the rise of a new wave of contemporary South Africa jazz voices."(Evan Milton, Mail & Guardian)
"Compositions, playing, and the consistency of Dyer's voice and vision make Emancipate The Story one of my top jazz albums of the year."(Gwen Ansell, Business Day)
"Critics have remarked on Dyer's expressive style and skill which they say go beyond his years and are creative in a wide array of jazz idioms"(Sunday Times)