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Bright New Brighton

Feya Faku, like Abdullah Ibrahim says the best teachers are in the townships. Errol Cuddumbey gave Feya Faku his first trumpet. Errol was later to collaborate with Feya on a project that resulted in a Sweden co-produced jazz record called ‘Out of the Shacks.'

‘Out of the shacks' is more than just a fitting title. All the music of New Brighton came from out of the shacks. Some of these shacks were situated in the Red Location of New Brighton. Those shacks are still standing and settled amongst them as a tribute to their longevity ‘The Red Location Museum, Gallery and Library' stands today. The Red Location takes its name from the fact that the roofs of all the shacks in this area were red. There is also a white location with white roofs in another area.

Visiting the Red Location museum is an experience in South African political development and the ever widening gap between haves and have nots. In and amongst the Dickensian shacks of apartheid South Africa (still standing and well used to this day) there is a built plateau where modern architecture is given a major boost through the construction of expensive and expansive glass and steel buildings.

The library and art gallery remain unused white elephants awaiting their bath, but the Red Location museum is active. The Museum is host to a permanent exhibition of New Brighton jazz music.

Jazz music has always provided the bridge between oppression and equality, excess and poverty and thus one believes that this exhibition is merely the first step in reactivating the great jazz era of New Brighton. The Red Location Museum Gallery and Library is awaiting to be transformed into a cultural precinct supported by a holistic integration of the resources with the residents. With jazz music integration is quick to happen through performances, festivals, education and opportunities. These were all the hallmarks of a great era of New Brighton jazz.

The permanent exhibition is a great start for reviving this lost but certainly not forgotten era. “Generations of Jazz” permanent exhibition sits within the rooms and high quality viewing booths of the plush oak and padded museum. This exhibition tells the stories of the burgeoning South African jazz scene and how it blossomed as a vibrant jazz scene in New Brighton. From the post war boom to the present day, New Brighton is host to many all star bands that have formed and reformed in inter-generational collaborations.

Saxophonist Patrick Pasha is one of the living legends of this jazz musical phenomenon of New Brighton. He said, “ Some of us stayed behind to keep jazz alive here at home.”

The exhibition was created by Diane Thram from the International Library of African Music. The exhibition pays special tribute with a life size photograph of Dudley Tito's Avenue A Studio, a place where musicians would come together to jam and or to learn.

There was much musical activity in New Brighton. Diane Thram writes: “New Brighton, Walmer and Uitenhage had an excellent big band tradition. African Rhythm Crotchets, Junior jazzmen, Broadway Yanks, Bishop Lumba's swing band, Barnacle Bills, King Cole Basies, Uitenhage Musical Rhythms aces and City Slickers.”

“The Broadway Yanks formed in Walmer in 1953 by trumpeter Edward 'Showbiz' Nomkhomwana and then regrouped as ‘Jazz Maniacs' with Pat Pasha, Dudu Pukwana, Junior James, Nick Moyake (saxes), Victor Miza (trumpet) and Dudu Pukwana did the arrangements.”

Tete Mbambisa is from New Brighton. Chris McGregor introduced Bra Tete to Ronnie Beer and encouraged the formation of Beers ‘Swinging City Six.' They were to later form the Jazz Disciples together with other great musicians.

 

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The exhibition pays tribute to Tete Mbambisa's latest solo album 'Black Heroes.' On this album it is said that; 'the traditional 4 measure marabi sequence is used : F —Bb —F / C —C7'.

There were great modern jazz bands that came out of New Brighton. Tete Mbambisa was in the band Xhosa Nostra. A jazz band from New Brighton that made a lasting impact was Soul Jazzmen. Soul Jazzmen was founded by Thami 'Big T' Ntsele and featured George Tyefumani on trumpet, Duke Makasi, sax and Dennis Mpale on trumpet.

Shirley Lineo Lebokeng joined the Soul Jazzmen in 1984. She continues to perform with the Metro Jazz Queens. Lulu Gontsana joined the band at the age of 12. Lulu formed Spirits Rejoice later. He said, “It was not jazz to play only, it was how to be a human being, and to learn to stand on your own.” Spirits Rejoice was something else. Music of the highest standard!

Thami ‘Big T' Ntsele passed away during the making of this exhibition. His family donated his upright bass to the permanent exhibition.

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