The Story of SA Jazz offers entertaining presentations on the topic of SA Jazz:
Quotes from the Jozi Book Fair Presentation 2015 SOUTH AFRICAN JAZZ IS JUSSST MUSIC
“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. So when the Americans say jazzz music, it is jussst music.”
“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
“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
“Tradition is a very big word. Nobody knows exactly what it means unless they have read the book by two British historians Terrance Ranger and Eric Hopsbawm. The title is ‘The invention of tradition’. It shows how traditions are invented, constructed and reconstructed, not from nothing, from certain realities which have been transmitted from generations to generations. Whenever someone says this is our tradition. It’s very likely to be something very recently reconstructed for various purposes, but contemporary purposes. That’s one type of discourse on purity.
“An aspect of this discourse on purity which is very amusing is a discourse which is developed by the people who are marketing world music. World music is very mixed. It is not pure at all. It is totally constructed and in some cases artificially manufactured in studio’s in Paris or in the North in France in Great Britain and in the USA. World music is the combination of travel with music. It is the same combination you will find in the rough guide. When you look at the literature written about ‘world music’ they say it is about authenticity, about purity and it enables us to relate to a type of ideal purity that’s been lost in modern societies. Of course these types of discourses are totally fake. This is a commercial discourse selling a certain product. If this is a commercial discourse, it has been devised in those terms because it appeals to potential buyers, because potential buyers are looking for the expression of a certain purity, because they have lost this sort of authenticity and purity, the feeling of their roots or whatever it is. This is true about what is written about African music, particularly in France and a bit less in Great Britain or the USA. When you look at the general literature on African modern music in newspapers and magazines, it’s almost always irrelevant. There is a sort of globalization about African music were African music never existed. There are so many African music’s, it does not make sense at all to label African music. It makes sense commercially, because people will buy African music whether it is from Senegal or Mozambique. They would not recognise the difference and then they will go to African dance sessions and possibly buy the djembe, and then all that to them, is African. They have an idea of Africa, which is at the same time primitive and pure because it stayed and remained primitive. This was already clearly articulated in ‘The Negro Review’ presented in Paris with Josephine Baker.
There is a demand for exoticism which has been there in European and American societies. Discourse in terms of purity and authenticity is just one of the latest of that need for exoticism.” Dennis Constant Martin
“The whole story of South African jazz music is that it has not been written yet. There are so few books about it. They don’t tell the whole story because it is so complex with different influences like in Cape Town the Cape Malay music, tribal music, tribal dance. There are a lot of influences there. It is hard to detect but it should be done now before a lot of information gets lost.” LARS RASMUSSEN
TOPIC : SOUTH AFRICAN JAZZ IS A SPIRITUAL MUSIC
“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
“I am one of those musicians who has short fingers so someone like Abdullah Ibrahim, or Duke or Monk or even McCoy who can stretch and even Rodney Kendricks who is big and what about Randy Winston, yah. So they can play all these big chords. I am attracted to that sound. I wish I could play like that. There are a lot of other people with short fingers. They compensate, but I think they are moved by something deeper within themselves. They won’t stop just because of this limitation to play. Django Reinhard had two fingers he continued to play.
“I don’t overcome my limitations. I just play with limitations. For instance I can only go up an octave. If I want to go up to the tenth or even the sharp eleventh, if I was able to do that, my sound would completely change in the way that I play things, so I am really limited in that way. Because I love music and I love expressing myself through music I don’t mind to try and play.
“I have something to offer but I don’t know if it is in terms of music as such. My five physical senses sometimes play games with me. Maybe that is why there are problems on earth because we believe what we see. We think in terms of colour of skin or in terms of different sizes, or in terms of intellect. We concentrate so much on those things rather than love. It is possible to love, it doesn’t matter if you are crippled, or you are blind, this is the common thing that we all have. I live my life by being more aware of the spiritual. I am attracted by spiritual masters. The teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Krsna of Prophet Mohamed, of all different religions, I am completely open. I am for the union of all religions and also for the union of all the people on earth. Because I feel like, that I think that I attract universal consciousness. So when I am playing I attract people who are inspiring, who want the world to think this way.” Bheki Mseleku
“Everywhere in the world there are those musicians who will express at a certain level, especially when you are doing something original. The music you play is also a medium in which you can express yourself best, like a language that is developed and that is growing and changing. So each artist when they start composing their own music and they play it and when the way they feel it is real to them, then they can touch other people and perform it with a real spirit.
“I am philosophical about music. It is a mystery because sometimes when the sound is great and the spirit is great you can have some magical moments, something just happens on stage that you are so connected and you are complimenting each other in such a special way that there is a movement that gives you goosebumps. It can go a long way. It can go to a very high level, expressing emotions and sometimes being overpowered by something that wants to say something through you.”
“I believe that a human being is made up of different elements, physical, emotional and spiritual as well and I have learnt to acknowledge that at a very early age. I was brought up in a very spiritual home. We went through different churches. And I still do that now. I don’t think you can find everything in one religion. I believe Jesus Christ also traveled a lot to the East. And he studied there. I am really inspired by the Aquarian gospel of Jesus the Christ which suggests that he actually had to work hard to receive Christhood, like Buddha. It is not something you are born with. It is something you gain; you know. I do keep all that in mind and I do try to find out what spiritual leaders like Kahil Gibran say. I have tried to read what they have to say about music and in most cases it is a very spiritual thing. It is like meditation because it puts you in a certain state especially when you play you think of nothing else except harmony. That is what we are seeking basically as human beings. It is a part of creation to be in harmony. When you think about that harmony, you feel it and it makes you feel beautiful. Music is inseparable from spirituality.
“Bheki Mseleku who for me successfully merged African music and jazz. He writes Bheki Mseleku style of music. He is a very special person and also spiritual. He actually left music for about two years to go to a Buddhist temple. That is another thing I like, it is the spiritual aspect. There are musicians who spiritually are at a very high level. I was concerned what musicians really are. Today you will find musicians are as much in a business as an accountant because you have to sell records. But then there is another point in the music. I went through a couple of books to see how people describe musicians, how people describe music. I haven’t really found a satisfactory answer. I understand it is not in one lifetime that one becomes a musician. It is like becoming a master soul. You are born and you heal people, you can do miraculous things. I believe in reincarnation but not as a continuous thing but you can pass over and you can stay on whatever plane you are but if you want to come back or if you have to come back for whatever reason you can get permission to do that. So I feel that for musicians it is not only in one lifetime that you become a musician. It is going through a couple of lifetimes. I believe this world has been like this before. There have been great cities, everything that is happening now happened before and it is evolving. Even though there are changes in the way people treat each other and look at each other we still face the problems that the older generation and passed generations faced as well. This world may end like the end of the world the first time with the floods and whatever. It can happen again but people will still be people. They can come back. We may be given fresh legs, and fresh water maybe every 500 or whatever years but we will keep on coming back. So, I find that musicians have a certain spiritual element that comes out through their music and I find that with Bheki MSeleku. I haven’t really sat down with him, but I feel that he may be able to explain, a lot of things to me. He is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays every instrument. And he doesn’t just play it. He could decide to become a full time saxophone player, or a full time guitar player, or a full time drummer. Spiritually he is at a very high level to learn all those instruments and master them in this lifetime. It tells me he has been here before, maybe two three times before. I love his music, also the way he uses traditional music and fuses it with jazz. ” Moses Molelekwa
“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.” Struan Douglas
TOPIC : MUSIC AND EDUCATION
“Passion drives you. You got to have talent. But the main thing is discipline. Discipline and Passion go together. I practice every day without fail. I force myself to improve. There is so much to learn. I want to be an incredible musician.” Carlo Mombelli
“Music touches the deepest part of man’s being. Music reaches further than any other impression from the external world can reach. And the beauty of music is that it is both the source of creation and the means of absorbing it. By music was the world created, and by music it is withdrawn again into the source which has created it.” HAZRAT INAYAT KHAN
“The basic principles of creating music are the same principles by which consciousness co creates the cosmic symphony of the universe. ATTUNEMENT (Adjusting frequency); COHERENCE (amplitude aligned); RESONANCE (also occurs naturally when the frequencies of octaves interact with each other). It is the vibrating notes of minute strings from whose resonance all the energies of the universal hologram are believed to derive. The Buddha’s ‘middle way’ is well explained through the musical metaphor. When he saw a musician tuning the single string of his harp – neither too tight nor too loose but the middle way. ” quoting from the 8th Chakra.
Presentation on the TOPIC of JAZZ LEGACY at the visit of Adam Glasser to Sophiatown Heritage Centre 2015
South African Jazz Composition : Past, present and future
I regard South African Jazz as a school that can facilitate the journey toward finding oneself. Those who know South African jazz share it with those who don’t and that is how we learn and how we grow. And that is why I see South African jazz as an aspect of uBuntu. By listening to the voices and identities of those who dared to express themselves there is a path laid out for one to find one’s own voice and identity.
The music has the power to bring change. Change is the alchemy of the music … I would like to look at Adams questions in light of this alchemical approach …
Which SA jazz tracks do you care about?
There is the past; whereby I suggest an approach of quantity more than quality. We have the reel book of Cape Jazz by Colin Miller and jazz.co.za which presents 20 compositions. However we could one day have a reel book of South African jazz as thick as the ones of American Jazz.
And there is the future; whereby one can study the principles of South African Jazz to inform your own composition. And here I suggest work to inspire INNOVATION and IMPROVISATION …
Which compositions/recordings deserve to be part of jazz history?
A vast amount of research still needs to be conducted to pull out the recordings from private archives, radio archives, etc … From the 30’s – 70’s there is Hugh Tracey’s archive. From the 60’s there is the Ian Bruce Huntley Archive in South Africa and Ogun in England … And from the late 50’s onwards there is the SABC transcription and radio archive. And there are a number of musicians, sound engineers, impresarios and collectors sitting with unheard music on cassette, mini disks, other recordings and hard drives. A massive release and sharing of the music needs to be encouraged. And the internet is facilitating this ….
Largely the real story of South African jazz is still being uncovered. And one way to reach deep in is to look at the composers. Over and above the composition, there is the composer. Take a composer like Mankunku. A serious student would find it very rewarding to notate every single note he ever played. Solo’s, compositions, improvisations … That would be a fantastic work . And from a completely different perspective the same can be said of Todd Matshikiza – everything he ever wrote, in words and music, transcribed and documented would be a tremendous resource. The deeper we dig into the past, the greater we arrive into the future.
South Africa Jazz history does not only come from an American jazz etiology. South African jazz comes from an ancient traditional music tradition and also a choral musical tradition. All this music should be incorporated. When our research becomes inclusive we break down all limitations of genre and border and thus we arrive into the future with a global music that is integrated and innovative …
Which compositions could be taught at schools & universities?
In my experience the greatest learning of the tradition of South African jazz, is the so called ‘township jazz experience’ or the INXILES; the musicians that stayed at home.
The INXILE musicians have preserved South African jazz music against all the odds and thus in an extraordinary kind of way it is them who really know how to share it and teach it. In my opinion the music is so deep and interpersonal, it goes beyond the four walls of money and academia. I call it “a transformative gift of sharing.”
In this regard instead of bringing the music into the schools and universities, more schools need to be supported out at the musicians homes.
Your choice of compositions …
In the past, there are many compositions and composers that need to be looked at from a quantitative perspective … We require a complete study that pulls together every strand of evidence of this music and presents it in an unprejudiced and factual way. The student may then decide how to advance the language of South African Jazz … I believe this to be a vast study, with enough room for everybody:
In the future, I like composers that consider the new age alchemy of transformation from the lead of our ego’s to the gold of hearts. In which case there is no right or wrong answer … there is “just music.” And when said with a big drawling accent that equates to juzzz music. Jazz music.