Thursday, November 09, 2006


Khunjani jazz is like a homecoming

South African music styles can have such a different flavour to what the rest of the world is used to, not much is standard.

To give you a few examples, we have a choir, the Cape Town Chorus, made up of teenagers from the township of Khayelitsha, a huge sprawling suburb outside Cape Town. This choir is a Welsh Chorale Choir, and have performed to great appreciation at an eisteddfod in Wales – but of course its Welsh only in describing its name because the music is pure African!

Old slave & folk music, originating in the Cape when slaves were brought here during the 1600’s and 1700’s, has developed into a totally unique style that won’t be found anywhere else in the world, as anyone who has witnessed the annual Cape Malay choir & minstrel festival in the New Year can agree with!

We have Johnny Clegg. Even Freshlyground.

We are the Kings of Kwaito in SA.

Same with Jazz. A musical style that was started at the beginning of the 20th century in New Orleans, combining old West African musical traditions with Western influences, Blues and Ragtime, and religious influences.

Here in South Africa, Jazz became popular in the 1950’s, with Dolly Rathebe, Dorothy Masuka, and of course Miriam Makeba. From this a new style developed, Afro Jazz, and artists like Hugh Masekela used their influence while in exile to fight Apartheid.

Afro-Jazz. It’s like it belongs here, the continent where its roots are; that its gone off somewhere else, developed, only to come home again... It's nature is 'protest' music.

We have a group called Khunjani, whose core is made up of traditional musicians from famous Marimba & Percussion group Amampondo, who practise exactly that classical cross-over style of music. Jazz with all the regular instruments, the piano, guitar, bass, and trumpet, but then add in some funky African skins, some percussion and even a marimba, and we’re talking something totally different!

I managed to capture a little bit of amateur footage of them – and it shows a little of their style… their African style. Lil’ bit of protest jazz to lift you for the weekend!

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