The Development of Jazz In South Africa


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That, unfortunately, was the end of the line for that kind of American jazz in South Africa. Many of the musicians who played it left the country because of the increasingly repressive political situation, this writer included. With the advent of the avant-garde in the 1960s, the Blue Notes, led by Eastern Cape province born pianist Chris McGregor together with saxophonist Dudu Pukwana, trumpeter Mongezi Feza, Bassist Johnny Mbizo Dyani and drummer Louis Moholo, took up the banner and propelled the music into a new direction. They also had to leave the country, but made a huge impact upon the British and European jazz scene with their fiery brand of South African avant-garde jazz.

Only Louis Moholo is still alive today; the rest died in exile before they could experience the freedom of democracy in the land of their birth. Many stayed and continued to produce creative music in a political environment that became increasingly oppressive and brutal. Here in the province of the Western Cape in the city of Cape Town, bands such as Os Wietie and Spirits Rejoice, with musicians including Basil "Mannenberg" Coetzee, Robbie Jansen, Paul Abrahams, Chris Schilder, Gilbert Matthews, and many others too numerous to mention, gave their commitment, time and creativity to the struggle for democracy. They used South African jazz as a platform and became deeply involved in the struggle for democracy on a creative level by using the music as a clarion call for liberation at United Democratic Front political rallies in the townships.

Today in a democratic South Africa, jazz is thriving in an environment of freedom and racial reconciliation. At present there exists an up and coming core of extremely masterful young musicians, both black and white. Some of them are graduates from tertiary institutions here in South Africa with vibrant jazz education programmes and others come from community based jazz education programmes.

Gloria Bosman, Judith Sephuma, Melanie Scholtz, Zim Ngqawana, Kevin Gibson, Andile Yenana, Lulu Gontsana, Mark Fransman, Eddie Jooste, Buddy Wells, Paul Hanmer, Keshivan Naidoo, Dominic Peters, Andre Petersen, Victor Masondo, Marcus Wyatt, Herbie Tshoali, Themba Mkize and the late Moses Taiwa Molelekwa.

These are just a few of some of the new innovative core of younger South African musicians who are responsible for taking the music into a new creative direction. Their vision and innovative approaches are creating a significant impact upon the jazz scene by the development of new concepts and ideas within the South African jazz genre. This bodes well for the development of jazz in South Africa, which, like Nazi Germany some sixty odd years ago, had been suppressed and stifled during the turbulent apartheid era.


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