Jazz in 2016
By Nomali Cele
Looking at situations in a retrospective manner – from the rear view of life’s mirror, so to speak – can be bittersweet in nature. As we look back at jazz in 2016, the events below have stood out for different reasons, but have kept us hopeful about the role jazz has to play in resistance, loss, rebirth and looking ahead.
Jazz and resistance are historically linked, especially South African jazz and South African resistance. When apartheid’s inhumane laws were beginning to find their groove, an exodus of talented, outspoken jazz artists began. But these artists didn’t just leave; they remained vocal on the global stage and through their music.
In 2016, where are we on that? When the #FeesMustFall movement picked up for the second time this year, students took to the streets of Braamfontein. On 14 October, the legendary vocalist Sibongile Khumalo was performing at The Orbit Club and Bistro a few metres away from Wits University with a TV crew recording her. The crew’s van was set alight and the club vandalised. It’s still unclear whether the culprits were opportunistic criminals or students trying to disturb the surrounding businesses that were carrying on as though they could not see them or hear their cry.
Yes, violence and destruction are not the answer, but are artists doing all they can to push back against injustice? It’s time to decide how we want to proceed.
2016 was a difficult year with the passing of several beloved musicians and cultural figures. Jazz has not escaped unscathed. While some jazz enthusiasts might not know much about her, Pinise Saul was an important presence in African jazz.
Born in the East London in 1941, she was part of the exodus of young artists who left apartheid South Africa looking for better options in the world. She left with the Ipi Tombi cast and crew in 1975 and found success and home in England, regularly working with groups such as Jabulani and Assegai and Township Express. Saul passed away on 26 October 2016 and was laid to rest in the Eastern Cape.
Thandiswa Mazwai hasn’t released much music since her 2010 award-winning Dance of the Forgotten Free, a live album and DVD. On 24 November 2016, she launched her third studio album entitled Belede. It featured tributes and covers of African classics with a jazz twist. Mazwai said that Belede, her first studio album since Ibokwe (2009), was inspired by a conversation she had with Hugh Masekela.
The result is a nine-track masterpiece paying respect to African jazz artists Mazwai considers to be rebels who paved the way for musicians like her, including Busi Mhlongo, Letta Mbulu and Miriam Makeba to name a few.
The line-up for the 2017 Cape Town International Jazz Festival has been announced. Taking place between 31 March 31 and 1 April, ‘Africa’s grandest gathering’ promises to be an experience no jazz lover wants to miss. It includes the likes of Jonas Gwangwa and friends, Judith Sephuma, the Soweto String Quartet, UK singer Laura Mvula and American group En Vogue. More artists will be announced soon.
And since we’re looking ahead, 1 January 2017 marks the beginning of Jazzuary 2017. Not only will the takeover play out on air, but it’ll also come in the form of events and live performances. Are you ready?