South African Jazz: Start Here

AAJ Staff By

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This special section is devoted to South African jazz, which has prospered for several decades and developed a distinctive character all its own. AAJ: SA was created in 2002 and has since been updated with a continual stream of new material.

This is the Start page. To visit the rest of this series, click on the links below.

Political History
CD Reviews

Protea Jazz has prospered in South Africa for almost a century. As it has grown, it has developed a powerfully expressive voice. We've chosen the national flower of South Africa, the King Protea, as a symbol of the country's rich fertility and explosive beauty.

The special South African Jazz site at All About Jazz is our way of recognizing the amazing talent on the South African Jazz scene. Many people outside South Africa have not had a chance to hear this music because of media, marketing, and politics... but make no mistake: South African jazz deserves your ear. It's incredibly diverse, articulate, and glowingly expressive.

We most definitely did not choose an April launch date by accident. April 27, 1994 was the first time free elections were held in South Africa. And Freedom Day, as the national holiday is now called, represents something more than words can express.

A broad range of content supports this tribute to South African jazz. A total of nearly 90 CD reviews cover both historical and (especially) modern recordings of South African Jazz. Our interviews expose players who have experienced the new and old South Africa—and managed to prosper despite the strictures of apartheid. Informative profiles of South African record labels help explain how the new South African jazz has been documented. Special articles reveal insight of a more personal and general nature. And finally, an expansive timeline of South African history helps put the situation in perspective—musically, politically, and otherwise. For example, did you know that the first example of Homo habilis ("handy man") was found in South Africa?

At all times, we've made an effort to keep this information as accessible as possible. That means a glossary of important terms unique to South Africa—musical, social, and political terms which all inform the music. And we've also included an enormous list of links to all manner of sites related to South Africa and its music, should you feel the need to surf the net and learn a bit more.

We've done our best to present a total package. Dive in wherever you're most curious, and check out what South Africa has to offer.

This is supposed to be an eye opener, so keep 'em open. And your mind and ears as well... especially the ears.


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