The Story of South African Jazz

From the marabi sounds to the blue mbaqanga and the shuffle, the Golden Age of South African jazz is ebbing, flowing, dipping and peaking, a beautifully intuitive sound that brings back all the enthusiasm, passion and love in a timeless expression of a vibrant past. 

Story of South African Jazz is a three part book series published by afribeat.com and written by jazz journalist Struan Douglas. The vision is to provide a foundation for the recognition of South African Jazz as a unique and inclusive urban expression from this area of the world. It is a text book for education born out of the live music scene, where mentorship is the key to learning. From the website afribeat.com comes an open source platform of open minded and open hearted South African Jazz commentaries, tributes, photographs, articles, interviews, views and opinions from South African jazz musicians together with running commentary of a life lived and learned through the lens of heart centred South African jazz musical vibrations:

A network of spoken words, interviews, articles, commentaries, anecdotes and education provides the impetus for this popular handbook series on South African Jazz Music, musicians and self discovery. Through inspiring the power of the past into the present moment, this research flavours a spiritual discovery of tolerance, self reliance and unity. Drawing on the lived experience and oral history of many music masters, this is an educative sojourn into the unified source of music. South African jazz is a unique and all inclusive channel to real freedom, touching down in all the major cities, Cape Town, Jozi, eThekwini, London, Basel and New York.

“A society premised on sharing is the essence of jazz. Jazz is love, jazz is ‘love thy neighbour.’ Jazz is a unifying language. It brings people together and provides the vocabulary to have a great musical dialogue. SA jazz is a transformative shift to sharing. It is uBuntu in action.” Struan Douglas

When Madiba left Robben Island, the crowds had gathered to meet him on the foreshore. He looked over the mass of people very slowly and shouted “I love you.” It is love and that is at the core and the heart of our jazz music. It is love. I love you and without you, we are nothing. So, if it is love, then it is uBuntu too.

Quoting from the book : The Story of South African Jazz Volume One …

“Jazz is becoming world music. The way I understand it is “just music”. Hey man it is jazz music we are jusst talking about music. Wherever it comes from it doesn’t really matter, it is jussst music. Wherever it comes from it doesn’t really matter it is jussst music. So when the Americans say jazzz music, it is jussst music.” Robbie Jansen

“I feel African jazz is African jazz, South African jazz is South African jazz because our jazz is slightly different. I can’t explain it in technical terms. When I can hear it, I can know it. Jazz from Ghana or Angola is very different. South African jazz has something of its own. To say Cape jazz is different to Joburg jazz or Durban jazz I would be overstepping my mark. If there is a difference it is in the air.” Robbie Jansen

“You got to give everybody their due because everybody would contribute whether it was language, food or music. This is how I see the development of anything. Of course when you go to the big factory towns where motorcars are made or where there are railway junctions and forestry’s, you have motor town ‘Motown’ music. Philadelphia. And it would have a certain rhythm. And if you go to Port Elizabeth where they also make motorcars, you go to Johannesburg where there are mines. It resonates. This is why it becomes a global kind of culture and it is not about language. It is about sound.” Vince Colbe

"Jazz and freedom go hand in hand, if you are jazz orientated you are free from apartheid you know what I mean. It’s music and it’s all about truth. It’s quality. You have to come on to me to listen to Jazz. I am more like a doctor. You go to a doctor for an injection. In other words we are doctors to the spiritual world. Monk, the late, he said, ‘We got people who are defining this jazz. That is total shit man, freedom and jazz go hand in hand. If you can explain it, beyond that, then you are confusing yourselves. You just have to dig it or don’t dig it, that’s all. That’s the bottom line about jazz. You as a jazz musician, Cecil Taylor said, you are your own academy that’s it what more do you want.” Ezra Ngukana

“Tradition is a very big word. Nobody knows exactly what it means unless they have read the book by two British historians Terrance Ranger and Eric Hopsbawm. The title is ‘The invention of tradition’. It shows how traditions are invented, constructed and reconstructed, not from nothing, from certain realities which have been transmitted from generations to generations. Whenever someone says this is our tradition. It’s very likely to be something very recently reconstructed for various purposes, but contemporary purposes. That’s one type of discourse on purity.

“There is a sort of globalization about African music were African music never existed. There are so many African music’s, it does not make sense at all to label African music. It makes sense commercially, because people will buy African music whether it is from Senegal or Mozambique. They would not recognise the difference and then they will go to African dance sessions and possibly buy the djembe, and then all that to them, is African. They have an idea of Africa, which is at the same time primitive and pure because it stayed and remained primitive. This was already clearly articulated in ‘The Negro Review’ presented in Paris with Josephine Baker. There is a demand for exoticism which has been there in European and American societies. Discourse in terms of purity and authenticity is just one of the latest of that need for exoticism.” Dennis Constant Martin

“The whole story of South African jazz music is that it has not been written yet. There are so few books about it. They don’t tell the whole story because it is so complex with different influences like in Cape Town the Cape Malay music, tribal music, tribal dance. There are a lot of influences there. It is hard to detect but it should be done now before a lot of information gets lost.” Lars Rasmussen

“Passion drives you. You got to have talent. But the main thing is discipline. Discipline and Passion go together. I practice every day without fail. I force myself to improve. There is so much to learn. I want to be an incredible musician.” Carlo Mombelli

Quoting from the book : The Story of South African Jazz Volume Two … 

“In jazz the number one ingredient is to be your own unique self.” Sathima Bea Benjamin

“I don’t overcome my limitations. I just play with limitations ... I live my life by being more aware of the spiritual. I am attracted by spiritual masters. The teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Krsna of Prophet Mohamed, of all different religions, I am completely open. I am for the union of all religions and also for the union of all the people on earth. Because I feel like, that I think that I attract universal consciousness. So when I am playing I attract people who are inspiring, who want the world to think this way.” Bheki Mseleku

“There are musicians who spiritually are at a very high level. I was concerned what musicians really are. Today you will find musicians are as much in a business as an accountant because you have to sell records. But then there is another point in the music. I went through a couple of books to see how people describe musicians, how people describe music. I haven’t really found a satisfactory answer. I understand it is not in one lifetime that one becomes a musician. It is like becoming a master soul. You are born and you heal people, you can do miraculous things. I believe in reincarnation but not as a continuous thing but you can pass over and you can stay on whatever plane you are but if you want to come back or if you have to come back for whatever reason you can get permission to do that. So I feel that for musicians it is not only in one lifetime that you become a musician. It is going through a couple of lifetimes. I believe this world has been like this before. There have been great cities, everything that is happening now happened before and it is evolving. Even though there are changes in the way people treat each other and look at each other we still face the problems that the older generation and passed generations faced as well. This world may end like the end of the world the first time with the floods and whatever. It can happen again but people will still be people. They can come back. We may be given fresh legs, and fresh water maybe every 500 or whatever years but we will keep on coming back” Moses Molelekwa

“Institutionalised education is about money. True education is about love and it is FREE. That’s what I got from Max Roach.” Zim Ngqawana

The 5 Rays of SA Jazz

From Langa in Cape Town to Umkhumbane, Port Elizabeth and Sophiatown , it was a big mix up, and there was a spirit that bonded everyone together, a spirit of self actualisation. And where there was black urban culture, there was jazz. The Golden Age is a sliver of our memory of the golden days where pure love held back the forces of evil indefinitely. Time was destroyed. Life itself mattered! Life was lived with the pure light of togetherness, unity and oneness with an unconditional and uncontainable love.

Volume Two Launch Concerts

 


 

Mac Mckenzie

STORY OF SA JAZZ LIVE

Moses Molelekwa

STORY OF SA JAZZ SOUND SELECTION

Rob and Airto

STORY OF SA JAZZ EDUCATION