There are many musical friends : Here we pay tribute to Elias and Thabane from the Story of SA Jazz Volume One May 2015


And in Johannesburg a Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble was created in November 2015 to celebrate the elders and cross cultural collaborators … from the Story of SA Jazz Volume One


This show was a knock out in many ways … hence the title – the fire that set Sophia free ! For Sophia is a mythological being deep in our subconscious … She represents the unity of the divine feminine … To set her free is to set us free in the direction of togetherness, one-nes and united in body mind and soul … And music performed by the great musicians in a conscious collective of collaboration and shared delight is the medium for transformation …

Story of SA Jazz//

The Story of South African Jazz : LIVE Events are to be multi media fun and free wheeling with a focus on bringing musicians and audiences together. Live audience and educative components are always enjoyed. The story of South African jazz is built on the presentation ofthe jazz families, dynasty’s, griots, poets, painters, promoters and people in a well scripted, narrated and orchestrated live show that enjoys the taste of a rich musical heritage from Cape Town, to Durban, to Johannesburg, Pretoria, PE and East London too to name only a few of the exciting musical locations.

Honoured to attend so many gigs around the country continent and world !

The launch of the story of SA Jazz Volume One was celebrated with two unique performances in Durban and Joburg and another platform in Joburg.

Durban: The Story of South African Jazz : LIVE at the Rainbow KZN May 5th 2015 featuring Elias ‘S’dumo’ Ngidi and The Baret Boys

The launch was S’dumo’s idea. He says to me now that the book is out, you must have a launch … “When the master says jump, I say how high?” … He says I must speak to his son Philani who is very clean, cool and well brought up… … Philani says I must take a proposal and present it at the mayors office City of Durban. So, off I go to see the mayor, but who do I find ? Thami Skosana. He takes me under his wing and says I would be better off speaking to Illa Thompson … Launching at the Rainbow Restaurant and tavern was a blessing as this venue launched in 1982 under the banner jazz for the struggle and the struggle for jazz. Today the struggle has changed from political to economic. But we are blessed to receive a growing and widening support from the new Norway South Africa Concerts SA collaboration … And now we are taking live music back to the glory days … Jazz … Brother … Thami Skosana … takes the microphone to introduce the show. Meanwhile Elias ‘S’dumo’ Ngidi has got straight into singing ‘What a wonderful world,’ straight out of the souncheck. When Thami says we have a show to follow, S’dumo laughs and says he did not know, he is not a politician!

Narrator of the Story of South African Jazz live edition, Thami Skosana waits for maestro S’dumo to finish his rendition and then says, “Baba S’dumo,” that was the soundcheck. S’dumo laughts out loud and announces to the audience that he is not a politician! And the stage was set for Thami Skosana to bring the Story of South African Jazz to life. He starts off with a few cutting quotes from the book, reading them out with a jazz tongue … listen on soundcloud

“You got to give everybody their due because everybody would contribute whether it was language, food or music. This is how I see the development of anything. Of course when you go to the big factory towns where motorcars are made or where there are railway junctions and forestry’s, you have motor town ‘Motown’ music. Philadelphia. And it would have a certain rhythm. And if you go to Port Elizabeth where they also make motorcars, you go to Johannesburg where there are mines. It resonates. This is why it becomes a global kind of culture and it is not about language. It is about sound.” VINCE COLBE

“I feel African jazz is African jazz, South African jazz is South African jazz because our jazz is slightly different. I can’t explain it in technical terms. When I can hear it, I can know it. Jazz from Ghana or Angola is very different. South African jazz has something of its own. To say Cape jazz is different to Joburg jazz or Durban jazz I would be overstepping my mark. If there is a difference it is in the air.”ROBBIE JANSEN

“Jazz and freedom go hand in hand, if you are jazz orientated you are free from apartheid you know what I mean. In Europe there is an audience. From a marketing point of view, before you launch a product you do a market research. But, jazz is not a marketing product. It’s music and it’s all about truth. It’s quality. You have to come on to me to listen to Jazz. I am more like a doctor. You go to a doctor for an injection. In other words we are doctors to the spiritual world. Jazz is all about freedom I remember a giant, Cecil Taylor. Not Cecil Taylor. Monk, the late, he said, ‘We got people who are defining this jazz. That is total shit man, freedom and jazz go hand in hand. If you can explain it, beyond that, then you are confusing yourselves. You just have to dig it or don’t dig it, that’s all. That’s the bottom line about jazz. You as a jazz musician, Cecil Taylor said, you are your own academy that’s it what more do you want.” EZRA NGCUKANA

And then he calls on the author to give the audience a quick feel of the book. I excitedly read …

“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. As much as my life has been formed and shaped by South African jazz, South African jazz has been formed and shaped by different lives lived in every multi coloured shade of human experience. There is truth, acceptance, warmth, generosity and transformation in this music. South African jazz is built on the foundation of her musicians, her champions, brothers, sisters, comrades and friends. South African jazz’s open heart welcomes so many searching youths from all walks of life. It is in this company that one can really find oneself.”

And with that Thami is back on the microphone, quick as a flash, pushing out that jazz wordage like a champion …

Drum magazine MAY1960. The caption read: “Dig This Musical – It’s called Mkhumbane and it has just burst like thunder on Durban. It’s a show with joy, with sadness, two hours of tuneful, deep-down pleasure. “See how dark it is, how quiet. Hardly anything is moving. Only some early person. Only some early busses in the street. Taking early persons to the town. From Mkhumbane.” This is part of the haunting prologue to the Alan Paton, Todd Matshikiza musical, Mkhumbane/Cato Manor, which showed to full houses in Durban in the midst of the disturbances and the emergency.

The narrator is digging on Todd Matshikiza, and there has got to be a reason for that … Well only hours before the show some of the musicians pulled out and that opened the way for the real giants, the humble maestro’s of this sound to rise up … like something that might have happened in the fifties, only without the bloodshed. The launch itself was a fairy tale story, where true talent was given the light of love to display its truth and beauty …

And with that Thami reads out a Todd Matshikiza story …

Let me tell you what happened at the Pashar place. There was a great pianist called Bob Gwaza. The girls showered him with presents every night. One night a women gave him a scarf, he put it around his neck and Bob forgot to take it off when he went home. He was so tired, he fell asleep with the scarf around his neck. He had a very jealous mistress. She looked at him with venom in his heart and then she poured paraffin on his body and set him on fire. Bob died a painful death but he forgave her in his kind heart. She was never punished for that…

And you say all this is true?

I would never write it if it wasn’t. Bob Gwaza was one in a long line of pianists who were great men, playing tirelessly from 8 till 4 non stop. Then there was Solomon Ashedy in his black overcoat. He played all day at the Bantu Men’s social centre. He never played requests unless you gave him a cup of tea. And Douglas Koko pounding the piano, his favourite stunt was to play with his elbow and Samuel Tutu who always practiced accordion on the train. He always told me, ‘boy I was the lion of the keyboard until one helova boy came and dragged the crown right out of my hands, he was Mickley ‘fingertips’ Matshikiza.

Your brother?

Yes, I was playing at a dance he said, and when Mickley played after me, the next morning I took the first train and quit East London for Johannesburg.

So you are from a musical family?

My mother was a renowned soprano. And my father played the organ in the Anglican church. I am the youngest of seven and we were all taught music from a young age. Mickley passed on his infectious passion for jazz to me. My earliest professional experience was playing in one of his bands.

I remember my mum used to say to me, yes my son, your elder brother was born during the great flu in 1919. Peter Rezant was on stage then and still is today. He remembers the days when the band wouldn’t play if they didn’t have a four gallon tin of beer standing by to keep them from falling. It is great fun today. We have lots of class fun without the 4 gallon tin of beer. Thanks to Peter Rezant who has got coronation balls, nurses balls. Amen to that. Whose who is worn off for another evening with Peter Rezant. All the classy people turn out in white ties and tails, waltzing the nights away but tonight he is playing in Sophiatown.

I just heard him play with the Merry Blackbirds, I remember him in 1936 at the great Empire exhibition in Johannesburg, huge wonderful exhibition, gold pieces from Joburg, uncut diamonds from Kimberley, washing machines and Wales people from Durban, pygmies from the Sahara, swings, ruby rings meet with the finest things on earth and put them there for us to see. I saw nothing there, I was too small, but I saw the huge large showboat on a big lake. Peter Rezant and his famous Merry Blackbirds orchestra, here daily and nightly. People would come to the showboat every day, judges, lawyers, policemen and pimps, ladies, gentlemen and thieves. They didn’t come in ones, they didn’t come in two’s, they came in tens to hear Peter Rezant and his Merry Blackbirds. It is funny/. I am just thinking now that I saw people there. I saw them gape at the strange blackbird Peter Rezant. They said, of course he is different. I said, so his my right foot from my left. You can say what you like man, Peter Rezant is a ruby of a ruddy blackbird. He has done this country good.

… I worry about the future. Sometimes. What’s going to end fast in me. All that. Acts, mixed marriages, immoralities, population registration, group areas, separate registration of voters and the worst one, Bantu education. What is going to happen to my children?

… It makes me both excited and sad. Last night listening to Peter Rezant play, I couldn’t contain myself but now finishing my story, thinking of all the many tragic cases, I have little hope. That boy Zulu, he was the kind of musician who wanted to bring music to those who danced to it, the new swing sound, the marabi. He was in demand with the Jazz Maniacs, so they made a huge mistake. They accepted double engagements because they didn’t want to disappoint their patrons. They were hired to play in Pretoria, they said yes. And then took a train that same night on a tour to Cape Town. Legal suits, selling of instruments. The band was no more. The Jazz Maniacs of Zulu boy Cele gone. But worst of all is he was found dead on the railway line of Johannesburg. No one knows who killed him. Something happened at a party and his body was carried to the railway line. Others say he was forcibly thrown in front of a fast moving train. No musician these days wants to talk about the murder of the Z boy. And his great maniacs are as dead as he is. Even if they were not murdered.

When it was announced that Thabani Mahlobo would be first on stage with his outfit Baret Blues, a message came through from the owner of The Rainbow, “with tears in my eyes and desperation in my throat, I ask who is Thabani Mholobo.”

This message had caused much hilarity to us on the morning of the show as we were conducting the rehearsal and it caused the narrator to really state the case.

As there was no tale more significant than Thabani Mahlobo. This is a cultural activist, a man who was wanted to dead or alive by the apartheid security forces, a man left for dead after a gun wound, a man that has enshrined the values of Kesi Govender. For when the live edition of This story of South African jazz appeared to be dead in the water, good and proper, Thabani responded to the call of love. No questions asked. He said, “It is not exploitation if you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Thami took every opportunity to use his deep voice and theatrical way to explain exactly who Thabani Mahlobo is … He read out …

At Stable Theatre there are many master entertainers, Thabani Mohlobo has been there since the beginning. He gave me a grand welcome. He said, ‘This is your temple.’ Stable Theatre has been a temple for many. With a history dating back to Kesi Govender, Stables breathes music. Thabani Mohlobo does sign painting to make a living. He is a great guitarist and vocalist. He is also a renowned actor, author, play-write and story teller and keeps the musicians amused on many occasions.

Thabani told us a story: An old lady and her granddaughter boarded a taxi to Addington Hospital. On passing Stanger Street, the granddaughter asked the grandmother who all the young ladies (the angels of the night) on the street corner were. The grandmother said they were teachers. The taxi driver interrupted and said no you must tell the granddaughter the truth. The grandmother was upset with the taxi driver for interfering. The granddaughter asked whether these teachers had children. The grandmother said yes, where do you think all these taxi drivers come from? At which point the taxi driver pulled the car over onto the side of the road and kicked the grandmother and her granddaughter out the taxi. The grandmother reported that driver to the taxi association and the driver was suspended!

Thabani Mahlobo performed together with an acapella crew called Baret Boys, named as such because they all where berets. They took us back to an era of early jazz and showboating. They filled the gap that the Manhattan brothers have left and at once confirmed the power of acapella singing to pass the time, to cretae rhyme and to set a rhythm and pace. Thabani knocked out the show. And then dipped into a sultry blues to close the proceedings because bluesing with the voice is something that Thabani had learnt from his grandparents and was doing since the age of 5. And they were not done yet. But that is another story… listen on soundcloud

Thami takes to the stage and introduce the star of the show, the most humble man on the planet, a man who had to be coaxed with the greatest drama of all to take to the stage as a headliner, as a pioneer, virtuoso and performer of the most celebrated standard that he is. Elias ‘S’dumo’ Ngidi gave the author the secret jazz code which is preserved on the opening page of the book.

“The whole story of this jazz thing is it never finishes.” S’dumo Ngidi

Thami got it right on. He introduced the maestro, the man of milk and honey, the man who says whenever I need money, I just whistle. And then he asked the audience to rise to their feat to welcome him and this they most certainly did. Thami reads out:

Elias S’dumo Ngidi has a rich history in the Story of South African music. S’dumo is from the penny whistle generation and plays penny whistle, saxophone and guitar. He has an extraordinary lived experience through his music. He toured with Winston Mankunku Ngozi as a trumpeter in his band in the 1960’s. Winston just loved the way S’dumo plays trumpet.

The author jumps on the mic to add a few impressions …

Before I met Elias, I had always wondered about the marvellously mysterious story of the jazz musicians that stayed behind in South Africa during apartheid and anchored the scene! How did they do it?

The narrtaor continues

He said: “We were exiled in our land, we were seen as terrorists. In Umdloti, I was taken in by AWB, the biggest racists, however being a musician I played for them Sarie Marais and as a result I was treated as a hero. Music can tame a lion. If a lion comes here roaring and upset, and you play your horn, it will be tamed. It is about you and your instrument, nothing else matters.”

S’dumo started at 14 as a singer. He sang with the Shange Brothers. They gave him a trumpet and said take it you know what to do with it. S’dumo put 12 hours a day of practice into that instrument. He says after the first day the second day is easier and by the third day you have got it. S’dumo was a golden boy of the trumpet touring in Winston Mankunku’s band and developing a life long friendship with Winston Mankunku and Bheki Mseleku, with whom he lived together in Johannesburg.

However S’dumo did not remain as a trumpet player he took up the guitar and moulded himself into the complete performer that he is today.

He continues to perform in Durban in his one man band where he plays pennywhistle, guitar and vocals.

To see him play the trumpet remains an extraordinary site. When S’dumo takes the trumpet and plays he plays phrase after phrase inside out and all over the place fingering each one of the three valves with the familiarity of a great friend. His sounding of the horn is relentless. The melodies arise as bubbling brooks of sound. And that is the sound of the horn. It is a constant flow of improvisation and ideas expressed eloquently in phrases that float up and down the register on fingers that are like beings of their own, expressing themselves in combinations of vigour and whimsicality. He says he doesn’t play scales much because that makes you predictable. ‘I am not in favour of scalerology,’ he says.

All his children are musicians, he brought them up with music. S’dumo’s son Philani has risen to prominence as a bass player. Philani performed with Ronny Jordan in a Quiet Storm collaboration. Their performance was captivating and the music spoke beautifully.

One day when I sat alone at trumpet practice wondering how to master the trumpet. He said, “It is about you and your instrument, nothing else matters.”

‘Jazz is about improvisation,’ ‘S’dumo says to me at the moment he reaches into a rubbish dump and pulls out a polystyrene cup. This he places at the end of the straight mute that sat in my trumpet bag for three years, unused and broken as the cap had popped out and it was hollow. The polystyrene cup closed the hollow and when S’dumo started playing with the cup mute the sound was eerie, airy and floatingly fresh.

S’dum says, “You have to qualify. It is not a secret. It consists of 90 % practice and only 5 % is to do a few things like going to shops and eating and then the last 5 % to go on stage and play; and then you sound like magic. When you listen to them they sound like magicians all of them. That is where I have learnt most of the things that happen in music.

And this was the music that Elias played bringing meaning to his famous line “The tap puts the heart into the song.” Elias S’dumo Ngidi

Father son … Ngidi is a name of generational peace, love and respect … here we see and hear Lee Ngidi on bass Satin Doll is performed on two pennywhistles simultaneously and

Kwela Mama gets that pennywhilstle sound into the hearts and ears.

Take 5 on the pennywhiste whistful, rolling, loping and on the mark hitting a spot …

Ntjilo Ntjilo is right on the mark listen on soundcloud … the rhythm duo was on it.

Affirmations by George Benson was a buzz.

When S’dumo played Mr Bo Jangles a great show just became a smash hit … Cyril Shabalala just checks me in the eyes and says, “this guy can play.” listen on soundcloud

Moments before the power cuts out, Elias says, “it is high time someone requested I song. I am requested to sing Summertime.” And he closes out the set with a special request. Smooth as you like. Fitting it was that the show closed out in darkness. Not even load shedding could stop the show. The owner of the venue though he was in the clear as he jumps on stage in the darknessto shoutr out to the audience don’t worry we have a generator so you can still buy cold beers. Little did he know we were all there for the music and the musicians too.

And the load shedding could not stop the Baret Boys, whose acapella style is not only gorgeous but practical too. With a slow moving train song of love sung by Thabani Mahlobo and the Baret Blues with Thami Skosana shouting out the names of our fallen heroes of jazz.

Christopher ‘Mra’ Ngcukana, Kippie Moeketsi, Dennis Mpale, Moses Molelekwa, Bheki Mseleku, Johnny Fourie, Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Allen Kwela, Alex Van Heerden, Robbie Jansen, Gito Baloi, Ezra Ngcukana, Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Busi Mhlongo, Basil Coetzee, Zim Ngqawana, Lulu Gontsana, Moses Khumalo, Hotep Galeta, Ntemi Piliso, Todd Matshikiza, Sipho Gumede, Robert Sithole, Donald Tshomela, Pat Matshikiza, Sathima Bea Benjamin …


And at 7PM long after the show had come to a close. We meet Philani Ngidi on the street He is over the moon to hear the show is a success.

Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble//

The most recent event was a special one to honour the history of Sophiatown by creating the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble SOPHIATOWN LIVE

“I have been doing this for the rest of my life,” said heavyweight South African Jazz man, and sound expert Fitzroy Ngcukana in his soft hearted way.

I had arrived at Fitzroy’s Bez Valley shop at 8am that morning to collect the gear that would back up the delightful musical make-up of the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble. Fitzroy has not only a goldmine of gear but a goldmine of history and knowledge. Immediately on entering his shop, I thought that this could be the hippest jazz club in the whole country. I pictured a neon light “Fitzroys” hanging above the entrance of this corner shop of this fringe city suburb. And it would become a powerful place for the development of our music, a place of meeting, learning and playing music exactly as his father Christoper had done all those years before in Langa.

As we drove to Sophiatown to deliver the gear he said to me that musicians need to recognise that they are politicians! This statement is important because when we take responsibility for the power we have we can effect change. Politics is not only about having an opinion, but is about self assertion in a peaceful and pleasant way. To witness Fitzroy in action, and to see how he transformed the venue from a mixed use space to a place of music was to see the power of a holistic perspective in action. Self knowledge and self confidence when it meets up with skill and purpose is an awesome combination. And when it comes to the tricky issue of sound, it is essential.

To not only know what you are doing, but to not let anyone push you off your course is a path to success. It was thus a blessing and an honour to have Fitzroy on the show of the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble. In his capacity as sound provider, he assisted the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble in set up, sound hire and engineering. He created a stunning sound. It was three hours of set up and thirty minutes of sound check … The Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble went through Take the A Train, their indomitable version, in the sound check. And then to make totally sure, put out a version of Pata Pata with the voices and the horns and the instruments interweaving in an impressive way.

Of course to be with the legend, ‘Bambo’ as Lex calls him, ‘Banza’ as Bheki calls him, Barney Rachabane, was a privilege of huge proportion to one and all. Barney says to me there is only one thing he has done in his life and that is music. From the age of 8 till now, the age of 70, he has only ever been a musician. That he says is the secret. And I admire that.

Throughout set up, Bheki Khoza was full of energy strumming his guitar in a constant interplay of abandonment to joy. As we sat waiting for Fitzroy to complete the set up, Barney joked with me about Bheki. He said he has too much energy! Something is wrong: he does not drink, he does not smoke, he does not go for women and he does not eat meat! What is that? Barney puts his head back and roars with laughter. He is a real natural.

Tenor player Sydney Mnisi is possibly the best in the country, however when he stood alongside the little maestro Barney Rachabane, he was inspired and his spirits raised. Yonela on the piano got an ear-full on the soundcheck sadly. He did not know the reason for this, but my sources think that he damage done of Fitzroy’s piano’s in the past when he hit the keys a bit hard. I spent a moment in the soundcheck sending a prayer that those two brothers would let go of their past and enter the present. Which they did almost instantaneously. Real gentlemen, great adults.

And then to have such a stellar quartet of ladies in this ensemble was the icing on a cake that was already beginning to rise as Fitzroy slowly and methodically tweaked the acoustics of the venue. The energy of the quartet of ladies provided the soul and made the ensemble whole.

As producer I had assumed a strong energy of the feminine, which manifested in the spread of catering provided to keep us throughout the day. The ladies went into the kitchen and took ownership of the catering and began to create a home in the kitchen that we would all eventually enjoy throughout the day.

There had been a build up to this magical morning of technical superiority. And that was an appointment ten days earlier with Fitzroy Ngcukana. Fitzroy was well known in the Cape Town days performing in a quintet with his brothers. He is an acclaimed singer. He and his brothers, the late Ezra (sax) and Duke (trumpet) were the three sons of the legendary father of African Jazz, Christopher Fezile Ngcukana.

As we drank coffee I asked Fitzroy about the composition Mra as I was wishing the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble would play it. He explained that the composition Mra by his father was actually a politically conscious song composed at the time of the Chris McGregor Castle Lager Big Band; under another title, ‘ilizwe lifile’ meaning the land is dead … It got the name Mra from the slang My Bra that Christopher Fezile Ngcukana picked up in the coloured townships. It was there that he also picked up the nickname “Columbus.” But Fitzroy remarked in a manner that Ezra had once before, that this was not his name at all!

The composition Mra is also credited to Dudu Pukwana because Dudu was on the bandstand alongside Christopher and acquired an alto saxophone for the date. However he took Christopher’s tenor which he played and Christopher played baritone saxophone on that session.

Fitzroy’s passion for early African jazz was recently activated in a musical of the 50’s people which he orchestrated and promoted. It was a big band featuring a number of luminaries of SA Jazz including Barney and bass player Victor Ntoni as band leader. Unfortunately Victor lost the charts that were prepared for the event. However Fitzroy has a copy of the show on DVD. The show was narrated in a radio drama style presentation and had an audio visual component.

REHEARSAL THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER 10AM – 2PM #sophiatownheritage #storyofsajazz

Lex Futshane (Bass)
Yonel Mnana (Piano)
Simphiwe Shiburi (Drums)
Bheki Khoza (guitar)
Sweet Aroma : Boni, Sweeri, Sono (backing vocals)
Octavia Rachabane (vocals)
Barney Rachabane (alto sax)
Sydney Mnisi (tenor sax)

This dream was made possible through support received from Thundafund, Department of Arts and Culture and Baenz Oester, Veit Artl, Robert Trunz, Jonathon Rees, Angus Douglas, Lisa Morgan, Ignacio Priego , Nicci Bailey, Tsidi Moahloli, Wayne Leigh, Jack Poopedi, Khumo Motsisi, Tricia Sibbons, Keabetswe Motsisi, Lex Futshane, Struan Douglas, Tusi Fokane, Subhas Shah

And with respect to some of the late greats of Sophiatown
Jim Bailey, AB Xuma, Trevor Huddleston, Kippie Moeketsi, Todd Matshikiza, Dolly Rathebe, Nat Nakasa, Mongezi Feza, Can Themba, Johnny Dyani, Bloke Modisane, Miriam Makeba, Nadine Gordimer, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Zuluboy Cele, Peter Magubane, Lewis Nkosi, Alan Paton, Joe Mogotsi, Nathan Mdlele, Rufus Khoza, Thandi Mpambani, Miriam Makeba, Thoko Thomo, Susan Gabashane, Ntemi Piliso, Casey Motsisi, Matha Maduma, Morris Hugh Lestwalo, Alfred Herbert, Solomon Linda, Mackay Davashe, Ezekiel Dhlamini, Victor Ndlazilwana, OR Thambo, Robert Sobukwe, Wilfred Sentso, Peter Rezant, Samuel Tutu, Ezekiel Mogale, Bob Gwaza, Solomon Ashedy, Douglas Koko, Ernest Cole Kede, Henry Nxumalo, General Duze, Boykie Gwele and Mzala Lepere, Gene Williams, Norman Martin, Sonny Pillay, Gwigwi Mrwebi, Gideon Nxumalo, Zweli Ngwenya, Eric Bamuza Scaramouche Sono, Gibson Kente, Elijah Nkwanyane, Ben “Satch” Masinga, Boet Gashe, Wilson Silgee, Sol Klaaste, Leon Gluckman, George ‘Kortboy’ Mpalweni and Nelson Mandela

The year 2015 is 66 years since the midst of the initial Sophiatown renaissance. History is repeating itself through a freedom given for unity in diversity and a freedom received for uniqueness in action. It is manifested in reality through a first of its kind performance of an ALL STAR collaborative musical collective called, the Sophiatown Heritage Ensemble and a celebration of extreme joy of “those dancing good times, where the now is all there is,” as Lewis Nkosi used to call the golden days.

History has come full circle and it is exactly as it was in the heyday of Sophiatown, with Dolly and Mama Afrika and the beautiful nightingales of African song; Dambuza, Todd and the great gentlemen of African music; Can, Bloke and the brilliant creatives of African literature; Father Trevor, Jim and the pioneers of empowerment; Kippie, Zuluboy and the loose cannons of African Jazz, and all the other great names of our golden era. But we have grown, we have learnt, we have awakened to all of that and more.

Lex Futshane grew up in the burgeoning jazz days of New Brighton and he studied in the blossoming jazz years of UKZN. He will be joined by his collaborators; the blind pianist with an intuition for sound, Yonela Mnana and the great virtuoso, the rabi, the meastro maskanda guitarist Bheki Khoza. Together with strong man on the drums Simphiwe Shiburi, this rhythm section will set the pace for an all star vocal quartet and an all star horn section to bring colour to their passages of poetic flare.

The lass with song in her name, Octavia Rachabane, will join the powerhouse trio of Zulu vocalists, tenor saxophone maestro Sydney Mnisi will stand alongside the eternal musician, living legend alto saxophone player Barney Rachabane.

This show is part of the eternal spirit of jazz. It is crowd funded into reality. Be a part of this and join phase two of our crowdfunding. Pledge, donate, give and you will receive … great rewards courtesy of the author, the cultural heritage centre and the DAC !

Peace Love Respect, Gratitude and Joy

The Sophiatown Streets were the Theatre for African Jazz

“On the streets of Sophiatown, you would see barbers, people washing, many playing the pennywhistle, cooking, singing, dancing, talking, gambling, fighting and partying. In the shebeens; music, art, politics and beer-brewing developed. Great music was born in Sophiatown in its shebeens, dance halls and the Odin Cinema.” Olga Corner

“You don’t just find your place here, you make it and you find yourself. There is a tang about it. You might now and then have to give way to others making their ways of life by methods which aren’t in the book, but you can’t be bored. You have the right to listen to the latest jazz records at Ah Sing’s over the road. You can walk a Coloured girl of an evening down to the Odin cinema, and no questions asked. You can try out Rhugubar’s curry with your bare fingers without embarrassment. All this with no sense of heresy. Indeed, I’ve shown quite a few white people ‘the little Paris of the Transvaal’ — but only a few were Afrikaners.” Can Themba

“Sophiatown was a very beautiful place. There was music everywhere, flowing out of every house, from every corner and every shebeen. Rhythm was the unsaid word. There was mbaqanga, marabi, kwela jive, and on Sundays the gospel choirs marched down Toby street singing, and we always joined them. And then there was jazz at night. We used to go to `Sis Fatty’s shebeen and watch the Jazz Maniacs and listen to recorded American jazzmen… Everybody used to meet there: musicians, artists, intellectuals, writers, politicians and boozers. And all of us, the young aspirants, were growing up in this cultural explosion…” Thandie Klaasens

“It is about the marabi, the mabokwe, also the itswari, and famu. It is vital, like the dames that like it. The sound of the marabi is intended to draw people into the shebeens, and then to get them dancing. We call them night time girls, the dames that make and break the man. These women are real and they love the musicians.” Todd Matshikiza

“I had seen jazz-crazy youths and girls at home in England, in a frenzy of dance-hall jive … But the jazz in this room was not a frenzy. It was a fulfillment, a passion of jazz. Here they danced for joy.” Nadine Gordimer


The Story of South African Jazz : LIVE 06/09/2015 @ The Orbit
featuring Octavia Rachabane band, special guest Barney Rachabane. Introduction by Mpho Molikeng

The extraordinary role South African musicians have played in the development of jazz music and humanity worldwide requires further attention. Music simply is and the story comes to life through live music.

The Story of South African Jazz Live in Johannesburg was knocked out by the deepest and richest story of South African Jazz in Johannesburg … and that is the story of the Rachabane family. Barney Rachabane is the pioneer of this musical dynasty. Barney is now in his 70th year and is engaged with a biography, book of solo’s, album release, big band and school. In his sixty year career, he has pioneered jive, recorded extensively and spread the graceland message worldwide. JIVE records based its beginnings on the pennywhistle kids of the Alexandria All Stars and became the biggest record label in the world making the careers of the big names… Graceland became the biggest selling album in the world in 1983 … Barney Rachabane was once known as ‘the most soulful saxophone player in the world’, And the soul remains as fresh. The spirit of the music is eternal. Barney is a musical father who has passed the musical message onto his children and grandchildren. And it looks like a musical lineage that will never end.

His gifted saxophonist son, the late Leonard Rachabane was a part of the explosion of jazz at UKZN in the late 80’s. And Barney’s last-born is Octavia Rachabane, a songstress. Octavia has performed alongside her father since the age of 12. When Octavia saw her father perform live at the Market Theatre, she decided on a career in music. She said, “music was all around me. I was bound to it in a way.” reted through the lens of these musicians.

Quoting from the book : The Story of South African Jazz Volume One …

“Jazz is becoming world music. The way I understand it is “just music”. Hey man it is jazz music we are jusst talking about music. Wherever it comes from it doesn’t really matter, it is jussst music. Wherever it comes from it doesn’t really matter it is jussst music. So when the Americans say jazzz music, it is jussst music.” Robbie Jansen

“You got to give everybody their due because everybody would contribute whether it was language, food or music. This is how I see the development of anything. Of course when you go to the big factory towns where motorcars are made or where there are railway junctions and forestry’s, you have motor town ‘Motown’ music. Philadelphia. And it would have a certain rhythm. And if you go to Port Elizabeth where they also make motorcars, you go to Johannesburg where there are mines. It resonates. This is why it becomes a global kind of culture and it is not about language. It is about sound.” Vince Colbe

Jazz and freedom go hand in hand, if you are jazz orientated you are free from apartheid you know what I mean. It’s music and it’s all about truth. It’s quality. You have to come on to me to listen to Jazz. I am more like a doctor. You go to a doctor for an injection. In other words we are doctors to the spiritual world. Monk, the late, he said, ‘We got people who are defining this jazz. That is total shit man, freedom and jazz go hand in hand. If you can explain it, beyond that, then you are confusing yourselves. You just have to dig it or don’t dig it, that’s all. That’s the bottom line about jazz. You as a jazz musician, Cecil Taylor said, you are your own academy that’s it what more do you want.” Ezra Ngukana

“A society premised on sharing is the essence of jazz. Jazz is love, jazz is ‘love thy neighbour.’ Jazz is a unifying language. It brings people together and provides the vocabulary to have a great musical dialogue. SA jazz is a transformative shift to sharing. It is uBuntu in action.” the story of SA Jazz Volume One

When Madiba left Robben Island, the crowds had gathered to meet him on the foreshore. He looked over the mass of people very slowly and shouted “I love you.” It is love and that is at the core and the heart of our jazz music. It is love. I love you and without you, we are nothing. So, if it is love, then it is uBuntu too.

South African Jazz music blossomed out of an era of insecurity, where it is said that “the now is all there is.” So many musicians have died at an early an age or even before there time. When the dedication orchestra lead by Louis Moholo closed their set at the Cape Town Jazz fest in 2005, Louis Moholo spoke out the names of so many late greats and a young songstress named Octavia sung out the response : “We Love you.”