CAPE JAZZ GUIDE
Kapstadt Jazz Führer
South African Jazz was forged in a climate of rebellion. In the Johannesburg of the forties and fifties, the swaggering, cosmopolitan sophistication of African American bebop culture was adopted wholesale by the township youth; its style and lingo becoming a form of defiance against oppression. Artists, journalists and political activists came together around the music in the shebeens of Sophiatown, where the pioneers of northern ‘marabi’ jazz were making their names.
Meanwhile, in Cape Town, a different sound was emerging. American sailors brought the new jazz into harbour with them in the form of records, films, and even live musicians. Somewhere between the docks and the Cape Flats, it was infused with the Mother City’s own charismatic melange of musical traditions, cross-pollinating with the carnival music of the “Cape Coons” and drawing on the rhythms of Europe, Asia, and all Africa. Thus Cape Jazz came into being.
The 60’s and 70’s saw a mass exodus of jazz talent to the free world, as ever-harsher laws made it near-impossible for black and coloured musicians to make a living. Consequently, much of the best South African jazz produced in the latter half of the twentieth century was played and acclaimed overseas long before it was well-known on home turf.
Even after Freedom Day, the Cape Jazz scene remained an elusive subculture, its haunts and legends familiar only to those who sought them out.
Only in the last few years, with the exiled greats returning, and with the state at last supporting rather than suppressing it, has Cape jazz emerged into the limelight for today’s South Africans to discover or rediscover.
Recently, large-scale events such as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and the V&A Waterfront’s Cape Jazzathon have been hugely successful in promoting the Mother City’s unique jazz heritage, and celebrating the artists who kept the tradition alive and growing during the bleakest decades.
Andulela Experience is honoured to introduce you to three of the style’s most distinguished custodians personally on the Cape Town Jazz Safari: Robbie Jansen, Mac McKenzie and Hilton Schilder.