Yonela Mnana is a blind pianist and singer who grew up in Mamelodi Pretoria. Born in the Transkei and schooled in Pietersburg, Mnana’s geographical traversals privileged him with a rich soundscape including African and western choral styles, Kwaito and R&B, soul and soul, 90s popular music and traditional music in the auditory periphery of his missionary boarding school, Siloe. While enrolling for a B.Mus at the University of the Witwatersrand evidenced a commitment to study music under the tutelage of Marian Friedman and Malcolm Nay (for classical piano studies), Nishlyn Ramanna, Andile Yenana, Mncedi Kupa and mentorship of bassist Jimmy Mngwandi ushered him into a real life jazz experience. Mnana has since played with his revered jazz master elders including Zim Ngqawana (2005-6), Feya Faku , Herbie Tsoaeli, Sydney Mnisi, Clement Benny, Marcus Wyatt, Loraine Klasen, Bheki Khoza and Barney Rachabane.
To date, he recorded with Lex Futshane, and Mandla Mlangeni’s Amandla Freedom Ensemble on their respective debut albums.
He continously navigates the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban jazz club circuit with fellow musicians and friends such as Ariel Zamonsky, Sphiwe Shiburi, Sisonke Xonti, Mthunzi Mvubu, Nhlnhla Mahlangu, Lindiwe Maxolo, etc. He is also embarking on other unrealeased projects by Mandla Mlangeni, Sphamandla Mdlalose and an eclectic musical endeavour with London house deejay, Q.B. Smith, school choral works with Soultee, South African School Choral Esteadford and Ezibeleni’s Vivacious sounds. He teaches at Ezibeleni school for special needs and studies towards his post graduate degree in music at Wits University.
Having released his debut album ‘Baba’, he intends to conduct a series of promotional tours around the country.