Brian Thusi



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.



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Brenda Mtambo

Brenda Mtambo
99,99 ZAR each

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''Singer Brenda Mtambo (30) has done backing vocals for a host of South African musical stars. In fact, she has sung with just about every artist worth ­mentioning: Hugh Masekela, ­Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai, Jonas Gwangwa — the list rolls on.

She was an integral part of the hugely successful Joyous ­Celebration gospel ensemble and, as a travelling singer, she got to see large chunks of the world.

Now it is time for Mtambo to claim her space. Her first album is called Inspired and is released by Joyous Records. She launched the album in Sandton on Thursday night.

The surprise is that this gospel label has released a purely Afro-soul jazz title without a ­religious message.

Mtambo was born in Umlazi, ­outside Durban, where she was schooled, later attending the then University of Durban-Westville to study for a BCom in accounting.

She came to ­Johannesburg to finish her studies and, once there, joined Joyous ­Celebration — a move that put an end to her office life''.

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