South African Jazz Composition : Past, present and future
I regard South African Jazz as a school that can facilitate the journey toward finding oneself. Those who know South African jazz share it with those who don’t and that is how we learn and how we grow. And that is why I see South African jazz as an aspect of uBuntu. By listening to the voices and identities of those who dared to express themselves there is a path laid out for one to find one’s own voice and identity.
The music has the power to bring change. Change is the alchemy of the music … I would like to look at Adams questions in light of this alchemical approach …
Which SA jazz tracks do you care about?
There is the past; whereby I suggest an approach of quantity more than quality. We have the reel book of Cape Jazz by Colin Miller and jazz.co.za which presents 20 compositions. However we could one day have a reel book of South African jazz as thick as the ones of American Jazz.
And there is the future; whereby one can study the principles of South African Jazz to inform your own composition. And here I suggest work to inspire INNOVATION and IMPROVISATION …
Which compositions/recordings deserve to be part of jazz history?
A vast amount of research still needs to be conducted to pull out the recordings from private archives, radio archives, etc … From the 30’s – 70’s there is Hugh Tracey’s archive. From the 60’s there is the Ian Bruce Huntley Archive in South Africa and Ogun in England … And from the late 50’s onwards there is the SABC transcription and radio archive. And there are a number of musicians, sound engineers, impresarios and collectors sitting with unheard music on cassette, mini disks, other recordings and hard drives. A massive release and sharing of the music needs to be encouraged. And the internet is facilitating this ….
Largely the real story of South African jazz is still being uncovered. And one way to reach deep in is to look at the composers. Over and above the composition, there is the composer. Take a composer like Mankunku. A serious student would find it very rewarding to notate every single note he ever played. Solo’s, compositions, improvisations … That would be a fantastic work . And from a completely different perspective the same can be said of Todd Matshikiza – everything he ever wrote, in words and music, transcribed and documented would be a tremendous resource. The deeper we dig into the past, the greater we arrive into the future.
South Africa Jazz history does not only come from an American jazz etiology. South African jazz comes from an ancient traditional music tradition and also a choral musical tradition. All this music should be incorporated. When our research becomes inclusive we break down all limitations of genre and border and thus we arrive into the future with a global music that is integrated and innovative …
Which compositions could be taught at schools & universities?
In my experience the greatest learning of the tradition of South African jazz, is the so called ‘township jazz experience’ or the INXILES; the musicians that stayed at home.
The INXILE musicians have preserved South African jazz music against all the odds and thus in an extraordinary kind of way it is them who really know how to share it and teach it. In my opinion the music is so deep and interpersonal, it goes beyond the four walls of money and academia. I call it “a transformative gift of sharing.”
In this regard instead of bringing the music into the schools and universities, more schools need to be supported out at the musicians homes.
Your choice of compositions …
In the past, there are many compositions and composers that need to be looked at from a quantitative perspective … We require a complete study that pulls together every strand of evidence of this music and presents it in an unprejudiced and factual way. The student may then decide how to advance the language of South African Jazz … I believe this to be a vast study, with enough room for everybody:
In the future, I like composers that consider the new age alchemy of transformation from the lead of our ego’s to the gold of hearts. In which case there is no right or wrong answer … there is “just music.” And when said with a big drawling accent that equates to juzzz music. Jazz music.
Songs that are practical to teach/recommend as syllubus
Stompie Menana says it is important to improvise after practice.
What is the south african sound
Morris Goldberg says accenting the and beat on the 4 makes for a South African sound.
How do south african musicians take ‘ownership’ of any composition
I think ‘ownership’ is an extremely tricky topic. I look at music as coming from the muse. The music therefore inhabits the composer and the composer releases it such as in the solo piano albums by Moses Molelekwa Darkness Pass and Hilton Schilder Rebirth …
Which SA composers/players have succeeded in the brilliant kind of fusion achieved by the Jazz Epistles
The great fusion the jazz epistles achieved was an exile of South African to Europe and beyond and a transformation of the landscape there.
In my research the real and important story is the music that stayed behind. And for that tremendous research, funds, festivals, acknowledgements and bursaries need to be raised …
Take the example of how JIVE records based its beginnings on the pennywhistle kids of the Alexandria All Stars became the biggest record label in the world making the careers of Britney and so on … And Take for example Graceland becoming the biggest selling album in the world in 1983 … Both projects included Barney Rachabane .
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Some compositions and recordings to consider … From the Story of South African Jazz
No Title Artist Album Label
1 Scullery Department Jazz Epistles Freedom Blues Gallo
2 Pinises Dance Jazz Dazzlers Archive Africa SABC
3 Umthandazo Pat Matshikiza Archive Africa SABC
5 Davashes Dream Chris Mcgregor Brotherhood Fledg’ling
6 Spring Winston Mankunku Freedom Blues Gallo
7 Ntjilo Ntjilo Claude Deppe Township Jazz Ogun
8 Shaka Zulu Manhattan Brothers Best Of Gallo
9 Back of the Moon Miriam Makeba King Kong Gallo
10 Kittys Blues Dolly Rathebe Golden Afrique
11 Midnight Ska Hollywood Jazz Golden Afrique
12 Manenberg Revisited Abdullah Ibrahim Cape Town Enja
13 Joy Spirits Rejoice African Spaces Atlantic / Gallo
14 Cape Gypsy’s Genuines Night with the CG Mountain
N. Title Artist Album Label
1 Caminhos Tananas Seed Sony
2 Tanday Deepak Ram Essential Vibes Melt
3 Down Rocky Street Moses Molelekwa Genes and Spirits Melt
4 My Dali Barungwa Barungwa Melt
4 Journey from Within Bheki Mseleku Home at Last Sheer
5 Long Waltz To Freedom Zim Ngqawana Zimology Sheer
6 Zambezi Carlo Mombelli Serious Babies Baobab
7 Disentangled Goema Captains Afribeat Afribeat
8 Trains to Taung Paul Hanmer Trains to Taung Sheer
9 Dragon and Hugo Alex Van Heerden Moment in CT Afribeat
10 Eclipse Tribe Moment in CT Afribeat
12 Zvinoshamisa Louis Mahlangu Paul Kemenade Via records
13 Washa Washa Madala Kunene Kon’ko Man Melt
14 We Love You Spirits Rejoice Dedication Ogun
Adam’s composition selections:
Adam Glasser, son of Stanley Glasser the music director on King Kong, set out to compile an exhaustive list of South African “Jazz” music. He welcomed in all experts on the genre and asked them to speak about and share their music all day and then he performed a collection of his favourite standards. They were well orchestrated and transposed for a driving musical ensemble.
He has transposed them, scored them, rehearsed them and then performed them with a delightful ensemble … These were the songs he performed …
Zandile by Victor Ndlazilwana
Stay Cool by Tete Mbambisa
Blues for a hip king by Abdullah Ibrahim
Radebe by Dudu Pukwana
Bo Masekela by Hugh Masekela
Scullery Department by Kippie Moeketsi
Mra by Christophe Ngukana
Monwabisi by Bheki Mseleku
Part of a whole by Caiphus Semenya
Of the speakers :
Gwen Ansel had some good ideas of tunes which “leave the audience humming” which included but were not limited to
Cape Samba by McCoy Mrubata
Ida by Sydney Mnisi
Lullaby for an African Princess by Marcus Wyatt
Hymn for All by Feya Faku
Uxolo by Zim Ngqawana
Me the Mango Picker by Carlo Mombelli
Dream State by Kyle Shepherd
Nicky Blumenveld added to the list with
Hamba Namulela by Herbie Tsaoli
Hungry on Arrival from the Outernational Meltdown collaboration
Theta by Victor Ntoni
Breathe by Kesivan Naidoo
Lesson number 1 by the Rhythm Elements
Pata 11 by Johnny Windermere …
Johnny Windermere was a person she could find no information about until Gwen said that he was actually Johnny Boshoff a whote musician who sold into the coloured market. His pseudonym was ‘Windermere.’
Lindelwe made note of Todd Matshikiza’s article from the mid 50’s in Drum magazine called “History of SA Jazz.”
Marcus Wyatt made note of a few compositions such as
Weeping by Bright Blue
Seleyane by Victor Ntoni
My friends and I by Carlo Mombelli
Do it by Chris McGregor, even though he said he is partial to all of McGregor’s music
Sam Mathe played songs from the early Gallo collection of African Jazz and marabi classics and made special mention of Reggie Msomi.
This great day of music appreciation also belonged to Tricia Sibbons a board member of the Sophiatown centred situated in the old home of first president AB Xuma. Tricia is from London and served Father Trevor Huddleston in the last ten years of her life. And has continued his extraordinary passion for South African music culture. She has custom built a music hall on the Toby Road premises and together with music director Marcus Wyatt and a small cast of dedicated and enthusiastic staff is creating a home for authentic South African music culture.
Her long time friendship and association with Adam Glasser was given the space and audience to really proliferate. When Jerry Molelekwa founder and curator of the Moses Taiwa Molelekwa Foundation arrived with students from his Tembisa based organisation to join the audience, he was given a warm welcome because only a few days earlier Adam had gone on Morning Live television with a group of students in a harmonica ensemble that was very impressive and orchestrated from scratch in only five full days.
This event was supported by the UK season in SA and has heralded a new day for collaboration between SA and UK that takes us back to the very early days of the early 60’s where it was Adams father Stanley “Spike” Glasser who was the musical director of the tremendous King Kong All African Jazz Opera.
Today Stanley has developed Alzheimer’s so unfortunately cannot recall his glory days. Yet Adam is picking up on it in a big way. Adam Glasser was born in Johannesburg and attended Parktown Boys high. He grew up in the heady days of African funk and funky jazz ensembles such as The Drive and popular compositions by Barney Rachabane et al. He moved to England and largely missed out on the periods of defiance music of the late eighties and then transformation music of the turn of the millennium. This recent four week visit to South Africa, served not only to fill him in as far as possible on all he missed but also to re-inspire him to where his home actually is. We are lucky to have a South African like this. He has not yet returned from exile.
However the latest collaboration between UK and SA is a step in this direction. That big collaboration during the King Kong days was an exile. And this new collaboration spear headed by the likes of Adam and Tricia is a re awakening to inxile or a healing through exile or a recollection and reconciliation through exile, but words aside it is simply exhilarating.