Sep 16, 2010
South African Jazz Sampler: Next Stop ... Soweto Vol. III
Information and reviews
Proving that the protest song knows no genres, this collection of songs from ‘63 to ’84 covers a nineteen year chunk of time when South African apartheid was at its most virulent. This collection of quality instrumental jams isn’t good because it was suppressed or because the African and European players were treated unjustly; it’s good in spite of that. Some tracks have an obvious African feel like the opening track, “Sibathuthu”, by the Malombo Jazz Makers, while others like “Malombo” by Sangoma sound as if they could have been written, played and recorded right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Admittedly, I was hoping to hear more distinct African and Afro-pop elements when I picked this album up, but I realize now that these folks were about making pure, unhyphenated jazz and that’s what it should be.
Strut Records released volume 3 in the three-part ”Next Stop… Soweto” series, exploring the musical soul of South Africa. While volumes 1 and 2 focused on township jive and soul, hip-hop, funk and R&B, volume 3 takes retrospective glance to a vibrant and sophisticated jazz scene in the midst of apartheid.
With imported influence from American legends such as Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker and a local infusion of more traditional marabi, a hipnotic rhythm, and kwela, a happy pennywhistle-based rhythm, South African jazz blossomed into its own category, mbaqanga, and in the 1950s found prominence on the world stage. Harsh apartheid restrictions, however, made it very difficult for any black musician to perform in the country at the time, and as a result many South African jazz musicians were forced into exile. Fortunately, many continued in their craft abroad, attracting international attention to the state of South African affairs, and returned home with the end of the apartheid in the 1990s.
Next Stop Soweto Vol. 3 chronicles the jazz musicians who stayed in South Africa and performed in defiance of the apartheid government, with a slight twist of irony. The complex, cultivated, upbeat and even swanky rhythm does not depict the pain and suffering of a people under the auspices of apartheid, but rather celebrates an imported African-American brand of music imbued with local culture in a way that illustrates the freedom those musicians deserved and, yet, were denied. It is not the music of the downtrodden, but the proud and hopeful.
The two-part album features South African ‘jazz giants, ministers and makers,’ like saxophonist Dudu Pukwana, drummer Early Mabuza, pianist Dollar Brand, the Soul Jazzmen, Heshoo Beshoo Group and The Drive.
The album also features an unreleased track, Dollar Brand’s ‘Next Stop Soweto’ from the archives of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Soweto was the home of the Cold Castle Jazz Festival, where many of South Africa’s jazz legends performed. In 1961, Dollar Brand, trumpet player Hugh Masekela and alto saxophonist Kippi Moeketsi played together, as the Jazz Epistles, at the festival and won first prize for jazz band.
As with previous volumes, the physical album features rare photos and sleeve notes by South Africa author on music and culture, Gwen Ansell.
This album comes highly recommended, if anything for its rich history, but primarily for its unique mode and elevated approach. Listen, and you’ll see what I mean.
Next Tuesday sees the release of Strut Records' third and final volume of the excellent Next Stop… Soweto series. The first two covered township jive and R&B and psych funk. Vol.3 is subtitled "Giants, Ministers and Makers - Jazz in South Africa 1963-1984" and it chronicles the jazz musicians who did not leave the country during the dark years of apartheid. They stayed and performed under the strict auspices of the Separate Amenities Act. The album features many South African jazz greats like saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and drummer Early Mabuza, and the potent soul jazz grooves of The Heshoo Beshoo Group and The Drive. Some of the artists created unique fusions, like Philip Tabane’s Malombo, mixing African drums and hand percussion with guitar, vocal and flute. This music is a defiant statement in the face of unimaginable cultural repression. You can't help but feel uplifted when you listen and that's a pretty remarkable feat.
Trumpeter Dennis Mpale was one of the regular players on the South African jazz scene splitting time between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and he plays in several of the outfits featured on Next Stop... Soweto Vol. 3. "Orlando" comes from an album under his own name, and is a tribute to his township.
Strut conclude their essential three-part excursion into the archives of South African music with the third and final volume of the ‘Next Stop… Soweto’ series.
Volume 3 is a long overdue retrospective of the rich jazz scene happening in South Africa from the early ‘60s to mid-‘80s. While many major artists lived in exile abroad and furthered their careers globally, many of South Africa’s finest jazz players remained, performing under the strict auspices of the Separate Amenities Act.
Jazz has a deep heritage in South Africa, dating from the early 20th Century. The country’s jazz scene flourished during the ‘50s, despite the increasing restrictions of apartheid, with musicians like the Jazz Epistles and Chris McGregor influenced by Charlie Parker & Duke Ellington before adding local marabi and kwela to their be bop. During the ‘60s, the Sharpville Massacre, radio restrictions and police clampdowns made the life of a black musician often untenable. Major names like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba left to live abroad.
Next Stop Soweto Vol. 3 is the story of the music that survived in South Africa during this mid-‘60s to mid-‘80s era. The album features many of the recognised South African jazz greats like saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and drummer Early Mabuza, the potent soul jazz grooves of The Heshoo Beshoo Group and The Drive and some of the many artists creating unique fusions like Philip Tabane’s Malombo mixing African drums and hand percussion with guitar, vocal and flute. This is important music, a defiant statement in the face of unimaginable cultural repression.
The album features an unreleased track, Dollar Brand’s ‘Next Stop Soweto’ from the archives of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. As with previous volumes, the package features rare photos from the ‘60s and ‘70s with sleeve notes by South Africa’s finest author on music and culture, Gwen Ansell. The compilers of the series are Duncan Brooker and Francis Gooding.
01. Malombo Jazz Makes - Sibathathu
02. Allen Kwela Octe - Question Mark
03. Spirits Rejoice - Joy
04. The Minister - Ngena Mntan’am
05. Tete Mbambisa - Stay Cool
06. Batsumi - Itumeleng
07. The Soul Jazzman - Inhlupeko
08. Mankunku Quartet - Dedication (To Daddy Trane and Brother Shorther)
09. Dennis Mpale - Orlando
10. Themba - Ou Kaas
01. Early Mabuza Quartet - Little Old Man (Maxjegwama)
02. Malombo - Sangoma
03. Chris Schilder Quartet feat. Mankunku - Spring
04. Jazz Giants - Pinese’s Dance
05. Dudu Pukwana - Joe’s Jika
06. Heshoo Beshoo Group - Emakhaya
07. The Drive - Howl
08. Chris McGregor & The Castle Lager Big Band - Switch
09. Jazz Ministers - Take Me To Brazil
10. Dollar Brand - Next Stop, Soweto (previously unreleased)
Thanx to Strut Records for this amazing compilation!