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Various Artists: The Rough Guide to South African Jazz

Track List

>Yeka Yeka - African Jazz Pioneers
>Vuvuzela - Bokani Dyer
>Seven Days Ago - Allen Kwela
>Dindela - Errol Dyers
>KwaBulawayo - The African Echoes
>Clarinet Kwela - Kippie Moeketsi
>Jikela Emaweni - Wessel VanRensburg/McCoy Mrubata
>Tlhapi Ke Noga - Dolly Rathebe
>Ntyilo Ntyilo - Thandiswa Mazwai/Thandiswa
>Ebhofolo (This Madness) - Zim Ngqawana
>Emampondweni - Batsumi
>Soweto - Abdullah Ibrahim
>Dembese - Brian Thusi

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

Encompassing the marabi, kwela and jive styles of mid-twentieth century urban South African music, this compilation covers the sounds, styles, assemblages and musicians that reside under the umbrella of South African jazz - from the golden age of 1960s and 1970s to the new wave of musicians in the twenty years of post-apartheid democracy. Recently re-issued releases from musician-in-exile Ndikho Xaba demonstrate the strong transatlantic dialogue between the civil rights movements in the USA and the anti-apartheid struggle through the language of jazz, with the rare single 'KwaBulawayo' as performed by his group The African Echoes. The Sowetan spiritual Afro-jazz of Batsumi on the track 'Emampndweni' contributes to the narrative of music at home during the height of apartheid in the 1970s and similarly slots into the category of undeservedly lesser-known artistry. From a period considered by some as the golden era of South African Jazz, these artists and their compositions are pertinent and vital reminders of the intrinsic link between this music and the dismantling of oppression.

One of the most prominent figures of the South African jazz movement is the composer and pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, whose career spans over 50 years, including a performance at Nelson Mandela's 1994 Presidential inauguration. Having played alongside Abdullah Ibrahim, the late Zim Ngqawana was a leading proponent of the exploration of free improvisation. While retaining South African jazz roots, Ngqawana incorporates traditional and avant-garde elements in his performances. This is prominently illustrated with the rasping vocals and volatile harmonica on the track 'Ebhofolo'. Gospel, hip-hop and electronic music now dominate mainstream music in South Africa. But against this backdrop, the new school of South African jazzers have embraced the diversity of musical output, with many making the crossover themselves. Bokani Dyer regularly performs with fellow band member and bassist Shane Cooper, in his electronic music alias Card On Spokes. Furthermore, it could be argued the trajectory of popular music in South Africa over the last twenty years is personified by Thandiswa Mazwai, who rose to prominence through her work with kwaito group Bongo Maffin in the mid-1990s, before going on to encompass gospel and delve into maskanda and electronic music in her solo career.

Featured here is Thandiswa's take on the South African Jazz standard 'Ntyilo Ntyilo'. South African jazz may now sit on the fringes of popular culture in South Africa, but you only have to look at the success of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Joy Of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg and the National Youth Jazz Festival to recognise the legacy of the pioneering musicians and the continuation of their collaborative spirit in the wealth of burgeoning jazz talent in South Africa.

Album Notes

This is an Enhanced audio CD which contains regular audio tracks and multimedia computer files. (ECD)

Includes liner notes by Graeme Ewens.

The rich traditions of African rhythms are echoed in all popular American music, and jazz is no exception. In turn, black South Africans became enamored with the familiar styles and structures of jazz as early as the 1920s. By the '50s, most towns had a few local bands, with Johannesburg boasting the sharpest innovators. The township bands played in a dynamic style that mingled elements of swing with marabi, the three-chord melodies by which African jazz was most popularly known. This excellent collection gives a good idea about the range and expertise of many of the players, from Sipho Mabuse's delicately beautiful sax playing on "Thaba Bosiu" to young Lemmy Special's virtuoso pennywhistle stylings on "See You Later." Although this broad 16-song offering covers the '50s through the '90s, it only includes one vocal performance -- Miriam Makeba & the Skylarks' swinging "Siyavuya" -- making for a lopsided although spectacular view of South African jazz. ~ Rosalind Cummings-Yeates


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