The Story of South African Jazz describes the development of this beautiful music through 5 distinct era’s called “rays.” To help tell the expansive depth of this musical evolution we have chosen ONE song for each ray. This is the selection.
1. The Golden Era: Rosa by Dark City Sisters
2. The Inxiles and Exiles: I remember Billy by Chris McGregor Big Band
3. The Liberation Era: Vukani by Bheki Mseleku (Eugene Skeef choice)
4. The Freedom Era: Long Waltz to Freedom by Zim Ngqawana
5. Co-Creation: Siyabonga by Yonela Mnana (His choice)
My question to you great jazz afficianado’s and friends is what are your 5 choices? Before you respond, a quick word on why these songs from my side…. The Golden Era can be depicted through the lovely Dolly Rathebe’s sensitive Kitty Blues, the Manhattan Brothers raucous Shaka Zulu or any one of Miriam Makeba’s profound renditions. But I choose the sweltering beauty of Dark City Sisters because of Mozambican guitar player Fany Mpfumo. He illustrates how South Africa is not so much a country with borders as it is a region with a diversity of people interacting, contributing and creating together. Chris McGregors Big Band of 1963, brought together an 18 piece exceptional and well rehearsed collective music first orchestra, the quality of which has never been heard since. Much of the band chose exile and others inxile. “I remember Billy” was one song they played. Personally, “I remember Barney”. He was a 17 year old sax player at the time. He was hip then, hip before and hip through every single era of South African Jazz from beginning to end. Vukani by Bheki Mseleku was chosen by Eugene Skeef, a long time friend and associate of Bheki. His reasons for choosing this song from Timelessness, a tune of light piercing through the dark clouds, and a message to wake up to a new dawn. As much as liberation was the theme of that era, it remains entirely relevant to today. The Freedom Era was brought to life by the visual beauty of Moses Molelekwa in particular, but the Zimphonic Suites classic Long Waltz to Freedom with the enigmatic horn playing of Marcus Wyatt is chosen as it illustrates the Zimology or the Philosophy of inner-attainment of the greatest expanses of our music making. It is this heart first approach that provided the avenue to freedom. And in the current period it is Yonela Mnana, a brilliant soul and profound musician, who chose his rendition of Siyabonga as a sign of things to come. With peace, blessings and gratitude to all who participate in this story, from the virtuosos, composers and mentors to the artists, engineers and effectionados. And of course radio DJs – remember to tune in :::