18 Fretless Questions: Bakithi Kumalo
1. FB: At what age did you start playing fretless bass, and how long have you been playing?
Bakithi Kumalo: I started at age 26. I have been playing for 24 years.
2. FB: What influenced you to play fretless?
Bakithi Kumalo: I never heard anyone play fretless before and I bought one because it was the cheapest bass available because no one else wanted to play them.
3. FB: Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
Bakithi Kumalo: I am self-taught.
4. FB: Who are your main fretless bass influences?
Bakithi Kumalo: Later on, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Bailey, Marcus Miller, Mark Eagan, Michael McNeary
5. FB: Who is your favorite fretless bass player and why?
Bakithi Kumalo: A split between Marcus and Jaco for their stylings in different ways.
6. FB: Do you play Stand-up, acoustic, electric, or all? Which do you prefer?
Bakithi Kumalo: I play and like them all for their different feels.
7. FB: What was your very first fretless bass? Do you still own it?
Bakithi Kumalo: B20 Washburn 4-String. Yes, I still own it. It is “retired” though.
8. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass you’ve ever played?
Bakithi Kumalo: B20 Washburn 4-String.
9. FB: What fretless basses have you owned, which do you still own?
Bakithi Kumalo: “Joe G” 4-String Custom, Modulus Graphite 5-String, Washburn 6-String, B35 5-String Acoustic – still own them all.
10. FB: What types of strings and fingerboard combinations do you like?
Bakithi Kumalo: DR Strings Hi-Beams 45 to 130 Gauge. I like Rosewood Boards or Maple, depending on the given song.
11. FB: What playing styles do you use – finger, thumb, or pick (or other)? What do you like about those styles?
Bakithi Kumalo: I use fingers for dynamics, tone and quick adjustment, I use thumb for slapping and percussive sounds, and I use African finger-picking as well. I do not use a pick.
12. FB: What bands/projects have you played fretless bass in/on (list as many as you like)?
Bakithi Kumalo: Most of the many projects I have played on, I have used fretless. Honestly too many to list here.
13. FB: What is your favorite song you played fretless bass on (studio or live)?
Bakithi Kumalo: “Diamond” from the Paul Simon “Graceland” album.
14. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass riff you’ve written (if different from above)?
Bakithi Kumalo: “You Can Call Me Al” from the Paul Simon “Graceland” album.
15. FB: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?
Bakithi Kumalo: The rhythm and voice I employ of the African continent. I approach the bass as a member of the drum family.
16. FB: Are you still actively playing fretless bass?
Bakithi Kumalo: Yes.
17. FB: Do you have any basic advice for bass players looking to take up fretless or those who are currently playing?
Bakithi Kumalo: Practice, but focus that practice on developing your ears. Fretless is all about your ears and feel.
18. FB: Do you have a web site address you would like to share?
Bakithi Kumalo: www.boneinthenose.com and www.guruproject.com