South-African Jazz essay

South African jazz can be defined, using as a basis a broad definition of African jazz, as jazz as performed by South African artists, “many of whom instill musical sounds and influences that are unique to their region” (Songa P. , 2005) or the country in general. South African jazz as a separate kind of African jazz will be the object of the study in this paper. The difference between African jazz and South African jazz will be shown through the characteristics of unique and original music of South Africa and its influence on South African jazz.

Also, the paper will discuss the political and historical factors, which had a great impact on the evolution of jazz in South Africa. The brief portrays of the tree South African musicians, included into the second part of the main body, will exemplify the impact of apartheid and the subsequent process of immigration as the main points discussed under the title “Political and historical background of the evolution of South African Jazz. ” The final part – conclusion – will analyze the findings of the paper.

1) The influence of political and historical factors on the evolution of South African Jazz Philip A. Songa in his article The Life and Times of South African Jazz points out that South Africa has always differed from the rest of the countries on the African continent. (Songa P. A. , 2005). The uniqueness of this country can be viewed in many areas, but South Africa is uniquely remembered as the only country in the world that has suffered from apartheid. South African jazz of the forties was designed as opposition to any oppression, political, ethical, and racial.

That is why many musicians had to live in exile, suffered persecution, intimidation and violence. With the help of their music black South African musicians expressed ideas that were contrary to racism. Moreover, jazz was created by the black, and the most oppressed residents of the country. The President of the leading company of the country- Sheer Sounds (SS), Damon Forbes, suggested the following explanation of this phenomenon: “The recording industry has always recorded more black artists than white.

The basic market forces have always dictated that”. (Songa P. A. , 2005). Thus, South African jazz has always been black considering both artists and audience. Mike Perry of Nkomo records developed the idea expressed by Damon Forbes saying that being a music of protest against apartheid, jazz also became “a music of empowerment. ” (Songa P. A. , 2005). Thus, South African jazz was music played by blacks and for blacks, and this contradicted the position of the white government. All the reordered music in South Africa was censored by board in Pretoria.

This board examined every tune of the record to make sure that it did not contain any subversive language or feature any banned artist. But usually black musicians used idiomatic terms, metaphors or symbols, unclear for white censors, in order to phrase their protest. For example, one of the greatest hits of Winston Mankunku’s “Yakha’linkomo” was titled Xhosa that means “bellowing bull”. In this way, Xhosa referred to the symbol of the animal that was taken to slaughter. In the early twentieth century the black American music became broadcasted in the townships of South Africa.

Here the word ‘township’ implies: “urban residential areas which housed African workers disenfranchised by the Group Areas act of 1950. ” (Glossary of South African Jazz, township). Songa holds that American music, when it reached South-African townships, greatly influenced the development of South African Jazz, for: “Many musicians tell stories of listening to records on their fathers knees. The various songs were often covered by the bands in the townships, which led to a fusion of local music styles and the jazz/soul/ R&B from the States.

It was often a matter of taking an African traditional style or song and playing it with the traditionally jazz instruments i. e. instead of a kora, a guitar, drum kits replaced basic percussion etc. Vocalists who grew up listening to their mothers singing traditional songs moved on to singing with groups that were emulating what was happening in the US. ” (Songa P. A. , 2005). The political system of the country, constant oppression of the blacks, apartheid encouraged the transportation of European and US music to South African Jazz soil and back.

When the political temperature raised and became too hot, the prominent musicians like Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Abdullah Ibrahim had to seek refuge in America and Europe. There the jazz-immigrants gained appreciation, and audience for their music. Being isolated locally, South-African musicians lived mainly unnoticed and unrecognized, but when they presented their works in front of the world audience, they were reported to whip up real storm abroad. (Songa P. A. , 2005). Consequently, with the help of jazz-exportation to America and Europe, South African Jazz reached a global audience.

However, the state of exiles did not allow South African musicians to achieve full recognition and popularity. The article The Life and Times of South African Jazz argues that “(Chris) McGregor and his Blue Notes took the British jazz scene by storm, their influence is still being felt in Europe, whereas people like Abdullah and Hugh had an initial impact simply because they were African exiles fleeing an unjust system and were, therefore, given a platform almost immediately but never made it into the mainstream jazz world”. (Songa P. A. , 2005).

Mel Puljic, the manager of US Rerooted Media, expressed his hope that once South African Jazz would win US market, notwithstanding the boundaries and limits imposed by the country’s political regime: “I’d hate to say that artists from SA had more cache while subjected to the apartheid system – but I think with patience and commitment the US audiences will soon enjoy the new lions of SA jazz” (Songa P. A. , 2005). The evolution of music of South African Jazz appeared to be closely connected with the political and historical development of the country itself.

For instance, the aspect of jazz exportation was reflected through the mixture of African original music with global dominating styles. The manager of Nkomo Records Mike Perry described the growth of South African Jazz in the following way: “I foresee a very open musical culture here building on strong African roots (Mbaqanga, Mbube, Marabi, and Kwaito; plus the Xhosa/Zulu choral tradition), Cape Goema, quasi Latin, European jazz and rock, and American funk and jazz. ” (Songa P. A. , 2005).

Thus, the influence original music of Mbaqanga, Mbube, Marabi, and Kwaito can be traced in the jazz works of the famous South African musicians and, due to the exportation of jazz abroad, in the world music as well. To illustrate this, the following examples can be brought: 1) Kwaito music was named after Amakwaitos (gangsters). It often used the combination of sung chanted or vocals together with powerful beats, which was further applied in hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues.

Among other things, Kwaito has strong roots in European house music and Jamaican reggae. Today this music remains very popular music in South Africa. 2) Mbaqanga means “maize bread” in Zulu language. It is a dance music which emerged in South African townships and reached popularity in the period of ’60s and ’70s. A modern vocal version of mbaqanga sound can be found in Malathini and the Mahotella Queens, the Skylarks the Manhattan Brothers. As a rule it includes bass and guitars, more often it has brass, atop cascading rhythms.

Today, Mbaqanga, incorporated into jazz forms, dominates the music of South Africa. 3) Mbube is a choral music which combines Zulu-Swazi forms with the melody and sounds of African church choirs. Initially, Mbube appeared as a mixture of European, Afrikaans, Zulu-Swazi, and Afro-American styles. It exemplifies the process when a unique regional music was combined, mixed and fused with the continental and global styles. 4) Marabi – A very early dance and music form appeared in Johannesburg slumyards at the beginning of the twentieth century.

According to the Glossary of South African Jazz, “Marabi blended early Afro-American dixieland and ragtime with cyclical harmonies and a trance-like rhythmic foundation. Regularly performed at shebeens, marabi was the defining music of urban ghettoes in South Africa. The lead voice improvised over a repeated three-chord unit played on a piano (or organ or accordion, and later a guitar), along with drumming on various impromptu instruments. ” (Glossary, Marabi)