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30 April marks International Jazz Day. It's celebrated annually in more than 190 countries and pays tribute to the art form of jazz and its power to promote dialogue among cultures, embrace diversity, as well as deepen respect for human rights and all forms of expression. The rich sound of jazz has flowed through South African life for much of the last century, soundtracking the triumphs and tribulations of our country's past. In 2018, jazz is more popular than ever, as seen by the recently held Cape Town Jazz Festival, which has become one of the 'must-attend' music festivals of the year. Join us as we look at some of the local legends of jazz, as well as those who are taking the music forward into the next century.
No mention of SA jazz (or jazz in general) could be complete without mentioning the 'Father of SA Jazz' Hugh Masekela. Born in Witbank in 1939, 'Bra Hugh was largely raised by his grandmother and began singing and playing piano at a young age. Internationally renowed for his jazz compositions and well-known anti-apartheid songs such as 'Soweto Blues', 'Bring Him Back Home' and 'Grazing in the Grass' (a number 1 US pop hit in 1968), 'Bra Hugh was considered the 'father of SA jazz' and has recorded and toured with other musical greats such as Paul Simon, Miriam Makeba and Abdullah Ibrahim. South Africa, and the world, mourned his passing on 23 January 2018.
You can listen to 'Bra Hugh's 1972 jazz and Afrobeat double LP Home is where the music is on Deezer today.
With music that reflects many of the musical influences of his childhood in the multicultural port areas of Cape Town, ranging from traditional African songs to the gospel and raga, to more modern jazz and other Western styles. He is considered to be one of the leading figures in the subgenre of Cape jazz. In the 1960s, at the height of apartheid, Ibrahim moved to New York City and, apart from a brief return to South Africa in the 1970s, remained in exile until the early 90s. Over the decades he has toured the world extensively, appearing at major venues either as a solo artist or playing with other renowned musicians, including Max Roach, Carlos Ward and the jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin (whom he was married to), as well as collaborating with classical orchestras in Europe.
Listen to A Celebration by Abdullah Ibrahim on Deezer now.
Sathima Bea Benjamin
An internationally renowed vocalist, Samantha Bea Benjamin is perhaps best known for her strong anti-apartheid activism throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. Along with her husband, Abdullah Ibrahi, she moved to Europe in 1962 before settling in New York while raising both money and awareness for the anti-apartheid cause. Over a career that spanned more than 50 years, she became associated with a style of elegant composure and deliberate understatement, occasionally lacing her music with the carnival-influenced shuffle beat known as Cape Town rhythm. On her return to South Africa in 2011 she was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival in Johannesburg.
Listen to the album Love Light by Sathima Bea Benjamin on Deezer today.
Admired for his blend of African township music, church music, eastern meditative chants and boppish city-streets jazz, Mseleku made an international impact, performing with some of jazz's biggest stars. Bheki Mseleku started his musical career in Johannesburg in 1975 as an electric organ player. Moving between Botswana, England and Stockholm throughout the 1970s and 80s, it was not until his 1987 performance at the prominent Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, playing piano unaccompanied by other musicians, with a saxophone in his lap, that fame came calling. His untimely passing in 2008 at age 53 has only cemented him as one of SA jazz's great players.
Listen to Bheki Mseleku's Mercury nominated album Celebration on Deezer.
Skyjack, the Cape Town-based, award-winning collaborative band of five jazz musicians, is split across SA, the USA and Switzerland, and so the magic that happens at their rare concerts provides moments to be treasured. Skyjack’s first shows together were on a South African tour in 2013, where they played in Cape Town, Johannesburg and then at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown for Shane Cooper’s Young Artist Award showcase, as well as at House on Fire in Swaziland. In 2015 they reunited for a tour across Switzerland, which saw them enter and win the prestigious Swiss BeJazz TransNational competition.
Listen to Skyjacks debut album Skyjack on Deezer today.
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