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South African jazz

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Title: South African jazz  
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Subject: Basil Coetzee, Abdullah Ibrahim, Kisangani, Hotep Idris Galeta, World Saxophone Quartet, Autobiography (Abdullah Ibrahim album), District Six, Soweto String Quartet, Ray Phiri, British jazz
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South African jazz

South African jazz is the jazz music of South Africa, also often mistakenly called "African jazz".


The jazz scene in South Africa grew much as it did in the United States. Through performances in nightclubs, dances, and other venues, musicians had the opportunity to play music often. Musicians such as singer Sathima Bea Benjamin learned by going to nightclubs and jam sessions and waiting for opportunities to offer their talents. One unique aspect of the South African jazz scene was the appearance of individuals imitating popular artists as closely as possible because the real musician wasn't there to perform in the area. For instance, one could find a "Cape Town Dizzy Gillespie" who would imitate not only the music, but the look and style of Dizzy.[1] This practice created a strong environment to nurture some artists who would eventually leave South Africa and become legitimate contributors to the international jazz scene.

One of the first major bebop groups in South Africa in the 1950s was the Jazz Epistles.[2] This group consisted of trumpeter Hugh Masekela, saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, and pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand). This group brought the sounds of United States bebop, created by artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk, to Cape Town with Moeketsi modeling his sound and style on Parker's. This group was the first in South Africa to cut a record in the bebop style, but their contemporaries, the Blue Notes, led by pianist Chris McGregor, were no less involved in the local jazz scene. Together, these two groups formed the backbone of South African bebop.

An early use of jazz as an anti-apartheid tool was the production of a musical entitled King Kong.[2] Written as a social commentary on young black South Africans, much of the music was arranged and performed by famous South African jazz musicians, including all the members of the Jazz Epistles, minus bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim. The musical was premiered to an integrated audience at the University of Witwatersrand despite efforts of the government to prevent its opening. The university had legal jurisdiction over its property and was able to allow the gathering of an integrated audience. From this point on, as the play toured South Africa, it carried this undertone of defiance with it. The success of the play eventually took it to premiere in London, and while failing financially outside of South Africa, allowed many local jazz musicians an opportunity to obtain passports and leave the country.

In March 1960, the first in a series of small uprisings occurred, in an event that is now known as the Sharpeville Massacre.[2] Censorship was dramatically increased by the apartheid government, which led to the shutting down of all venues and events that catered to or employed both black and white individuals. Gatherings of more than ten people were also declared illegal. As a result, a mass exodus was created of jazz musicians leaving South Africa seeking work. Among these were pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, his wife and jazz vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, and vocalist Miriam Makeba.[1]

For some, the move proved to be fortuitous. Ibrahim and Benjamin found themselves in the company of US jazz great Duke Ellington in a night club in Paris in early 1963. The meet resulted in a recording of Ibrahim's trio, Duke Ellington presents the Dollar Brand Trio, and a recording of Benjamin, accompanied by Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ibrahim, and Svend Asmussen, called A Morning in Paris. Artists such as Masekela traveled to the United States and were exposed first hand to the American jazz scene.

The end of apartheid has brought a revival of jazz music.


Notable South African jazz musicians


  • Banzai Bangani – composer and trumpeter.
  • Ronnie Beer – flautist and saxophonist.
  • Jonathan Butler – guitarist, also does rhythm and blues.
  • Basil "Manenburg" Coetzee – saxophonist; deceased
  • Mackay Davashe – saxophonist; deceased
  • Johnny Dyani – composer and double bassist; deceased
  • Mongezi Feza – composer, trumpet player and flutist.
  • Paul Hanmer – composer and pianist.
  • Moses Khumalo – saxophonist.
  • Allen Kwela – guitarist.
  • Early Mabuza – drummer.
  • Sammy Maritz – bassist.
  • Dorothy Masuka – singer; born in Zimbabwe, moved to South Africa aged 12.
  • Tete Mbambisa – composer, pianist, singer.
  • Harry Miller – composer and double bassist.
  • Jacob Moeketsi – piano
  • Kippie Moeketsi – saxophone and clarinet
  • Dennis Mpali – trumpeter; deceased
  • McCoy Mrubata – saxophonist and flautist.
  • Nikele Moyake – saxophonist.
  • Isaac Zakes (Zacks) Nkosi – saxophone and clarinet; deceased
  • Jabu Nkosi – keyboards; deceased
  • Moses Taiwa Molelekwa – pianist; deceased
  • Sipho Gumede – bass guitaristist; deceased
  • Elijah Nkwanyane – trumpet
  • Christopher Columbus Ngcukana – saxophonist; deceased.
  • Concord Nkabinde – bass guitar player.
  • Zim Ngqawana – composer, flautist and saxophonist.
  • Edmund "Ntemie" Piliso, saxophone; deceased
  • Dudu Pukwana – composer, saxophonist, and pianist; deceased.
  • Barney Rachebane – saxophonist.
  • Lucky Ranku – guitarist resident in London
  • Judith Sephuma – singer, now an Afro-pop singer seldom sings jazz.
  • Phillip Tabane – composer and guitarist.
  • Ellison Temba or Themba – saxophonist; deceased.
  • Mabi Thobejane – drummer.
  • Marcus Wyatt – composer, trumpeter and producer.
  • Andile Yenana – pianist.
  • Tony Schilder – pianist.
  • Kolosa Qomoy – bongo drums.
  • Esther Miller – vocalist; now resident in London
  • Mpumi Dlamini – saxophone, piano, composer, multi-instrumentalist
  • Claude Deppa – trumpet; resident in London
  • Cyril Magubane, guitar; deceased
  • Morris Goldberg, saxophones; resident in New York
  • Adam Glasser – harmonica, composer; resident in London
  • Tutu Puoane – vocalist; resident in Belgium
  • Estelle Kokot – vocalist, pianist, vocalist, composer; resident in London
  • Ratau Mike Makhalemele – saxophone; deceased
  • Rus Nerwich – saxophone
  • Sammy Webber – electric bass
  • Schalk Joubert – electric bass
  • Stix Hojeng – piano
  • Themba Dlamini – guitar
  • Bokani Dyer – piano
  • Kesivan Naidoo – drums
  • Winston Mankunku Ngozi – saxophone; deceased
  • Bheki Mseleku – piano, saxophone; deceased
  • Paul Petersen – guitar, vocals
  • Ernie Smith – guitar, vocals
  • Sandile Shange – guitar; deceased
  • Blues Ntaka – vocals
  • Pat Matshikiza – piano
  • Johnny Fourie – guitar; deceased
  • Themba Mkhize – piano
  • Bheki Khoza – guitar
  • Jimmy Dludlu – guitar
  • Blacky Tempi – trumpet
  • Alan Gordon – trumpet
  • Ian Smith – trumpet
  • Peter Sklair – bass
  • Theo Bophela – piano
  • John Davies – trombone
  • Allou April – guitar, vocals
  • Anna Davel – vocals
  • Marc Duby – bass
  • Rob Blaine – piano, keyboards
  • Ratau Mike Makhalemele – saxophone; deceased
  • Bridget Mitchell – vocals; resident in Hong Kong
  • Ike Moriz – vocals
  • Julian Bahula – band leader; resident in London
  • Bushy Dubazana –
  • Richard Ceasar – vocals, guitar
  • Melanie Scholtz – vocals, piano
  • Lisa Bauer – vocals, drums
  • Fundile Mdingi – bass
  • Tshepo Mngoma – violin
  • Tammy – bass
  • Robbie Jansen – alto sax, flute, vocals; deceased
  • Hilton Schilder – piano, multi instruments
  • Derrick Schippers – guitar
  • Amanda Tiffin – vocals, piano
  • Alvin Dyers – guitar
  • Errol Dyers – guitar
  • Andre Abrahams – bass
  • Avzal Ismael – piano
  • Alan Cameron – piano
  • Alison Dewar – vocals
  • Andile Mseleku – vocals
  • Andrew Ford – piano
  • Maud Damons – vocals; resident in London
  • Donald Tshomela – vocals; deceased
  • Andrew Lilley – piano, trumpet
  • Barney Rachebane – saxophone
  • Shannon Mowday – saxophone; resident in Norway
  • Feya Faku – trumpet
  • Ezra Ngcukana – saxophone; deceased
  • Bongani Nkwanyana – bass
  • Brian Thusi – trumpet
  • Bridget Mitchell – vocals; resident in Hong Kong
  • Carlo Mombelli – bass
  • Mac McKenzie – guitar
  • Dave Lithins – piano; deceased
  • David Bravo – piano, keyboards; resident in New York
  • Denzil Weale – piano
  • Derek Hutton – piano
  • Don Laka – piano, keyboards
  • Donald Tshomela – vocals; deceased
  • Ebrahim Kalil Shihab – previously known as Chris Schilder – piano
  • Frank Mallows – vibes
  • Brydon Bolton – acoustic bass
  • Gavin Minter – vocals, saxophone
  • Glen Mafoko – vocals, bass
  • Gloria Bosman – vocals
  • GTX (Ismael) Xaba – piano
  • Harold Jefta – alto sax, woodwinds; Charlie Parker exponent, resident in Sweden
  • Harry Talas – vocalist, acoustic bass
  • Hilton Gelderbloem – vocals
  • Hilton Mowday – saxophones; resident in Australia
  • Ivan Mazuze – saxophone
  • James Scholfield – guitar
  • Jason Reolon – piano
  • Jonathan Crossley – guitar
  • Kani Naidoo – guitar
  • Kgaogelo Mailula – trumpet
  • Khaya Mahlangu – saxophone
  • Kyle Shepherd – piano, saxophone
  • Leslie Kleinsmith; vocals,now resident in France
  • Mark Fransman – piano, saxophones, vocals
  • Mark Ginsburg – saxophones; resident in Australia
  • Megeshen Naidoo – piano
  • Melissa van der Spuy – piano, vocals
  • Merton Barrow, piano, vibes
  • Mervyn Africa – piano
  • Mike Perry – piano
  • Mlungisi Gegana – bass
  • Sylvia Mdunyelwa – vocals
  • Moses Khumalo – saxophones
  • Moss Mogale – guitar
  • Neil Gonsalves – piano
  • Nhlanhla Magagula – piano; deceased
  • Prince Kupi – guitar
  • Robert Payne – keyboards
  • Sammy Hartman – Piano
  • Sasha Sonnbichler – guitar
  • Buddy Wells – saxophones
  • Nick Carter – guitar
  • Soi Soi Gqeza – vocals
  • Sydney Ace Mnisi – saxophones
  • Sylvester Mazinyane – piano
  • Moreira Chonguica – saxophones
  • Tony Cedras – duitar, piano; resident in New York
  • Vusi Khumalo – drums
  • Wessel van Rensberg – piano
  • Zelda Benjamin – vocals
  • Ian Herman – drums; resident in New York
  • Alex Van Heerden – trumpet; deceased
  • Sean Bergin – saxophone, flute; resident in the Netherlands
  • Bobby Gien – drums
  • Dave Ledbetter – piano, guitar, vocals
  • Tina Schouw – guitar, gocals
  • Lulu Gontsana – drums; deceased
  • Basil Moses – bass; deceased
  • Spencer Mbadu – bass
  • Caiphus Semenya – vocals


  • The Blue Notes
  • Tucan Tucan
  • Airborne
  • Chameleon
  • Loading Zone
  • Uhambo
  • MJ 9
  • Jazz Ministers
  • Clive Sharrock Big Band
  • Jonny Cooper Big Band
  • Kesivan And The Lights
  • Cassidy-Clarke Band
  • Jazz Monitors Quintet
  • Offshore
  • Abstractions with Duke Makasi
  • The Elite Swingers
  • Little Giants
  • Don Jeany
  • Rush Hour
  • Absolute Zero
  • African Jazz Pioneers
  • African Swingsters
  • Afronaut
  • Alexander High School Big Band
  • Archie Silansky & Dan Hill
  • Benguela
  • Bezz Martin Jazz Capers
  • Breakfast Included
  • Brian Abrahams District Six
  • The Prisoners Of Strange
  • Brotherhood Of Breath
  • City Jazz Nine
  • Concert Boulevard
  • Cool Cats
  • Creeper
  • Nu Jazz Connection
  • Afro Cool Concept
  • Dondo
  • Elite Swingsters
  • Fourfourty
  • Hanepoot & The Biggish Band
  • Havana Swingsters
  • Heshoo Beshoo
  • Jazz Ambassadors
  • Jazz Dazzlers
  • Jazz Maniacs
  • Jazz Ministers
  • Jazz Disciples
  • Jazz Monitors
  • Manhattan Brothers
  • Merry Macs
  • Modern Jazz Quintet
  • Monday's Jazz Quintet
  • Moss Mogale Unit
  • National Youth Jazz Band
  • Ntemi Piliso & The Alexander All Stars
  • Ojoyo
  • Pacific Express
  • Phatbrass
  • Rise
  • Sheer All Stars
  • Short Attention Span
  • Soft Landing
  • Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band
  • Tamu
  • The Blue Heads
  • The Classic Jazz Masters
  • The Dominant Seven
  • Track Five
  • The Ghoema Kings
  • The Glenn Robertson Jazz Band
  • The Jazz Epistles
  • The Moreira Project
  • The New Year Swingsters
  • The Rhodes University Jazz Band
  • The Trio
  • Tonk
  • Transvaal Rockin' Jazz Stars
  • Tribe
  • Truly Fully Hey Shoo Wow Band
  • UCT Big Band
  • Virtual Jazz Reality
  • Voice


  1. ^ a b Muller, Carol. South African Music. Santa Barbara, Ca: ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 978-1576072769.
  2. ^ a b c Masekela, Hugh, and D. Michael Cheers. Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2004. ISBN 978-0609609576.
  3. ^ South African Jazz Music on National Geographic '​s website.

External links

  • "The Development of Jazz In South Africa". Hotep Idris Galeta. November 25, 2003.
  • Jazz in exile from South African info
  • "South African Jazz, Rhythms of Resistance".
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