Jazz...a metaphor for life
Like the foundations of the craft itself (i.e improvisation), when I received an invitation to go to a Jazz event a week ago, my response was; ‘Yes, and’…..
I had never particularly been a great fan of jazz. However, learning about the craft and the history of the genre, particularly in South Africa, I could not help but be drawn in. I started to view Jazz for what it signified for many people, I started to view it as a vector of freedom of expression, I started to view it as not merely an art form but rather a movement. I started to view it as beautiful.
From the Jazz epistle to the likes of Dizzy and Miriam Makeba, Jazz shaped shebeen culture, which at the time was a representation of freedom of expression, community and a much needed escape from the ills of apartheid.
Jazz is a great representation of resistance against the Apartheid government. It allowed musicians from different backgrounds an opportunity to create together and tell their stories of the struggle.
One cannot talk about jazz and not pay homage to Marabi and Kwela. These types of music were born following the accelerated urbanisation toward Johannesburg for those searching for gold….what at the time must have been thought of as a panacea to all their problems. Marabi, which later developed into early mbaqanga, was born as an underground music counter-culture with links to American jazz, ragtime and blues. The use of repetitive simple chords and a deep rooting in African tradition was what made it different.
“Marabi is characterised by a few simple chords repeated in varying vamping patterns that could go on for a long time; repetitive harmonic patterns being typical of traditional African music” - Wikipedia
“The dynamic blend of african-american structure and african style became the basis for early south african township jazz known as marabi.” - Wikipedia
“Kwela is a pennywhistle-based street music from southern Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat. It evolved from the marabi sound and brought South African music to international prominence in the 1950s.” - Wikipedia
For me, the evolution of Jazz in South Africa tells the story of resistance, creation, beauty, versatility and inclusivity. I think of Jazz as a metaphor for life. A true representation of flourishing and striving….. not despite adversity but because of adversity.
Hugh Masikela, Miriam Makeba, Louis Moholo, Jonny Dyani, African Jazz Pioneers, Simphiwe Dana, Thandiswa Mazwai, Freshlyground, Judith Sepuma, Zaki Ebrahim, Tutu Puoane, Sibongile Khumalo, Ray Phiri, Vusi Mahlasela, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gideon Nxumalo, Dudu Pukwana, Brian Abrahams, Mongezi Feza, Malombo Jazz makers and many many more…..we salute you.
Art by Charles Sekano.