A Jazzuary 2017 Masterclass – The Story of South African Jazz thanks to Kaya FM
Travel to Jazzahead conference Bremen with German Visitors Programme 2017
Give us a brief synopsis of what the Story of SA Jazz is about?
It is a story that is in its first Volume and it is an attempt to describe and document as much of our South African cultural history of jazz and improvised music that we can.
Why is the Story of South African Jazz worth documenting?
It is an amazing story in terms of South Africa’s history. To quote what Zim Ngqawana said, “jazz fought the struggle and won.” In terms of what jazz did in the 1960’s for South Africa it is an amazing story, and then taking jazz into the current generation where we have got over our political problems, I think jazz is fighting the struggle and winning in terms of our own emotional and social transformation and alchemy.
Talk to us about the highlights?
It started for me back in that day in 1999 in Cape Town and the first highlight was getting to know Jim Bailey, the publisher of Drum Magazine. He had a real fascination with street culture. And then of course Winston Mankunku was at large in Cape Town and shining the brightest light so being in eth presence of that music and the dancing good times, that got me hooked on jazz. Winston Mankunku was a masterful player. And then around 2000, the turn of the millennium was a huge explosion with the Cape Town jazz festival and then Moses Molelekwa really changed the way we understood jazz with his innovative playing, mixing in all sorts of music. And Jimmy Dludlu was there attracting great crowds. It was a lot of fun and joy.
Why the decision to put it as interviews?
It is such a vast story that my story is going to be different. I think it is important to tell everybody’s story as it is and for me the story of South African jazz is our story. Everybody has their story of South African jazz, whether it is as a pioneer or as somebody who has enjoyed it. For me it is to create something that will stand the test of time and not be subject to my own impressions. I have my own impressions and that will be told in another story but more to create the space for everybody’s story to be relevant and everybody’s story to be told.
Talk to us about the launch tomorrow?
It is going to be a great event. Firstly it is the Rainbow restaurant that has been supporting live music for 34 years. They launched under the banner of jazz for the struggle and the struggle for jazz back in 1982 playing to audiences of 400 people with great acts. And then the musicians featured are Elias Ngidi who goes right back in to the 60’s. He is a pennywhistle star. He performed with the great Winston Mankunku. He was the trumpet player in his band. He is a guitarist, a singer and he is a father. He will be performing with his musical sons the bass players Philani Ngidi and Lee Ngidi. The other performer is Thabani Mahlobo of Baret Blues, Thabani is an amazing musician, artist story teller and cultural legend who records and works out of Stable Theatre in Durban. And the show will be narrated by playwrite Thami Skosana who as a cultural champion himself. This is a gathering of maestro’s and the audience at the Rainbow are maestro’s themselves. They have all got their own stories of South African jazz to share.
With the support of Concerts SA
The Story of South African Jazz Launch Radio Interview with Shado
We will talk to Struan Douglas who will tell us more about the launch of the Story of South African Jazz …
How are you?
Wonderful Shado and you.
I am beautiful darling.
Listen congratulations the story of South African jazz.
Yes, thank you very much.
Give us a taste of it.
Reading from the first few lines of the book: Our Story of Southern African Jazz’ is a story that IS because it is a story that has become its writer. I was awakened by the patience, understanding, tolerance and forgiveness of many jazz musicians, jazz ambassadors, jazz warriors and jazz professors. I address you as a jazz messenger and a jazz disciple undergoing my own
transformation into a jazz dazzler. Have you got that?
There are lots of people who know about South African jazz, not only the musicians that play the genre, people that influence the music. Do we understand our own story of jazz as far as South African are concerned?
It is an enormous group of people and also to make reference to what Moses Molelekwa taught us, it is a school whereby one can find oneself. It is an eternal story. It is something that everybody belongs too. It is not only South African it is also global.
Moses Molelekwa who you had the honour to interview, what should we remember? Finding oneself, he left us with that beautiful piece of music and a lot of other songs but what should we remember?
I think Shado he would want us to remember the people who are living because there are so many amazing musicians. He obviously learnt from others himself. And I think to go to the first quote in the book by Elais Ngidi, he says, “The whole story of this jazz thing is it never finishes.” So I think that what Moses left us with is something that we are still to learn. It is an eternal story and he himself talked about living many lives so maybe he is on his way back here?
He never left; possibly? But is this a compilation of interviews, comments, how is your book formed?
Absolutely, it is a compilation of interviews but it follows a timeline from the golden era of the 50’s, to the inxile and exile era of the 60’s and then to the 80’s that had a mixed metaphor of different music and then to the era of the 2000’s which Moses was a part of to the current era of 2015. I have called each era a ray of South African jazz, separated by roughly 15 years which is the time it takes for one generation to pass the message onto the next generation.
Did you find it was easy to get information, are these stories documented elsewhere or did you have to dig hard to find information.
When I went to Lars Rasmussen in Copenhagen in the year 2000 he said, “The whole Story of South African jazz is it has never been written.” From that moment onwards I realised I had a job of work to do in terms of interviewing people. And this is still just the tip of the iceberg. This is Volume One and there will certainly be a Volume Two and a Volume Three if not more because there are many musicians out there whose stories have not yet been told and I think there is something to learn from everybody.
How long did it take you for this Volume?
Those years around 1999, this is where it started. It has gone through Cape Town and now to Durban and each part of the county has given a little bit for me to tell my own story, so I am able to present a collective story.
But what has been your thing? You have been at it for a long time. You have produced recordings, you have gathered musicians. You have always been right there digging, what has been your attraction and obsession with the music?
Yes firstly there is always something beyond what one knows consciously, the spiritual side. On the physical side it was firstly Jim Bailey, he really shaped my love of Africa and the music that came with it. And secondly watching Winston Mankunku. Jim influenced me from an emotional side and Winston from an alchemical side, showing me how music could transform emotions and from there I was hooked.
There is a bigger story than just the music?
Absolutely. You can put it down to alchemy. With the 60’s it was turning sadness into joy and a lot of our jazz story is based in the 60’s, but now in the current generation the alchemy has changed into transforming ourselves into the gold within our own hearts and I think that is where jazz is situated currently.
So tell us about the launch?
Sunday 3rd May at the Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown which is a legendary venue for jazz. There are two amazing Durban based musicians taking the stage. Firstly Elias Ngidi is a pennywhistle player and he was a trumpet player with Mankunku in the 60’s. He is a multi talented musician. He is one of the great improvisers. He will be playing pennywhistle and guitar and he is playing with his two sons who are bass players, Lee Ngidi and Philani Ngidi who is very well known in Durban. He has gone as far as collaborating with Ronny Jordan and is actually going to be touring the country with the Jazz Diva’s later this year. Elias Ngidi is going to be a very exciting show. He is a musician who has really opened my eyes to improvisation.
The other artist is Thabani Mohlobo. He is a painter, an orator, story-teller and he has an acapella quartet called Baret Blues. Thabani is a fountain of wisdom and in fact he came to the Stable Theatre in the early 80’s when it was started by Kesi Govender so he is also a pioneer of education and keeping cultural spaces open. These two artists will be headlining at the Rainbow on Sunday at 2PM. The show will be narrated by Thami Skosana who is an amazing playwrite and also an amazing supporter of arts and culture and authentic expression. It is very exciting also from a visual and spoken word perspective.
And Struan where do we find your book?
Well the Orbit is a great supporter of jazz and they are holding a number of copies and also if you do go to International Jazz Day and whatever events are on there, Xarra Books have a stand there, they are holding books. Otherwise Love Books in Melville, Adams Books in Durban. We print at BK Bookbinders. Cape Town of course is Clarkes. Otherwise from me, I am a travelling salesman as well.
You always have been, nothing has changed much. Give my love to Neil Comfort and tell him congratulations. And I hope Sunday, the 3rd is a great success and congratulations to you. Well done.
Thank you Shado, there is one thing I must mention and that is Concerts SA. This new light we are experiencing all over the country for live performances and live music has really been made possible by this collaboration that is resulted in Concerts SA. That has helped with this concert.
They are doing a great job because now we are managing to see musicians on different stages.
Thank you Shado. Keep well.
Struan Douglas. Beautiful beautiful Story of South African jazz. I am glad as many people as possible are starting to document this music because that is exactly what we need.