Jazz Out Of Africa

Hear Five Songs Below

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Mulatu Astatke just released a new album with The Heliocentrics. i i

Mulatu Astatke just released a new album with The Heliocentrics. Funkhaus Europa hide caption

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Mulatu Astatke just released a new album with The Heliocentrics.

Mulatu Astatke just released a new album with The Heliocentrics.

Funkhaus Europa

Jazz was born in America in the early 20th century, evolving out of a meeting of African and European music traditions. Once the style began to develop around the world, jazz found its way back to Africa, which spawned the internationally acclaimed likes of Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Abdullah Ibrahim.

Because this is a Take Five list, there's only room for five songs from five artists — not exactly a definitive assessment of an entire continent's music. Please tell us about your own favorite African jazz songs, artists and albums in the comments section below.

For more entries in the Take Five series, click here. And don't forget to subscribe to the Jazz Notes newsletter.

Jazz Out Of Africa

Mulatu Astatke

  • Album: Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974
  • Song: Yèkèrmo Sèw (A Man of Experience and Wisdom)

This album, one of many in the fantastic "Ethiopiques" series by Buda Musique, focuses solely on the music of Mulatu Astatke, one of the founders of jazz in Ethiopia. He trained in London in the late 1950s, then traveled to the U.S., where he took in many performances of jazz and Latin music. Upon his return home to Addis Ababa, he created music that combined everything from straight-ahead jazz to funk to sounds pulled from African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern musical traditions. Movie buffs might recognize this tune from the 2005 Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers.

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Song
Yèkèrmo Sèw (A Man of Experience and Wisdom)
Album
Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974
Artist
Mulatu Astatke
Label
Buda Musique

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Rough Guide to South African Jazz

The Jazz Epistles

  • Album: Rough Guide to South African Jazz
  • Song: Twelve Times Twelve

One of the first bebop-style jazz bands in South Africa, The Jazz Epistles drew inspiration from the American drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. The group was short-lived, but during its time together, The Jazz Epistles recorded a full album, the first by a black South African band. Not long after the group broke up, some of its members, including trumpeter Hugh Masekela and pianist Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim), fled the increasing brutality of apartheid in South Africa. [Note: We could not get permission to stream this track.]

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Song
Twelve Times Twelve
Album
Rough Guide to South African Jazz
Artist
Various Artists
Label
World Music Network
Released
2000

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Golden Afrique Vol. 1

Golden Afrique Vol. 1 hide caption

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Bembeya Jazz National

  • Album: Golden Afrique, Vol. 1
  • Song: Tentemba

Bembeya Jazz National was founded in Beyla, Guinea, in the early 1960s as a government-supported orchestra. Designated the country's National Orchestra in 1966, the group fused the sounds of jazz, Afropop, folk and Cuban music. It suffered a setback when its vocalist, Aboubacar Demba Camara, was killed in a car accident in the early 1970s, but it stayed together for more than a decade. Bembeya Jazz National then re-formed and toured internationally in the early 2000s.

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Song
Tentemba
Album
Golden Afrique, Vol. 1
Artist
Various Artists
Label
World Network
Released
2005

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Cover for Cape Town Revisited

Abdullah Ibrahim

  • Album: Cape Town Revisited
  • Song: Cape Town to Congo Square (First Movement): African Street Parade

Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) is one of the most prominent jazz musicians from South Africa. Ibrahim left South Africa due to apartheid in the early 1960s. In 1964, he recorded Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio after Duke Ellington took a liking to him and encouraged his development. In his compositions, Ibrahim blends South African sounds with those of traditional jazz. He returned to his native South Africa when apartheid ended, and continues to record and perform internationally.

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Song
Cape Town to Congo Square (First Movement): African Street Parade
Album
Cape Town Revisited
Artist
Abdullah Ibrahim
Label
Tiptoe

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Paul Hanmer

  • Album: Africa Straight Ahead
  • Song: Naivasha (The Moon in a Bowl)

Pianist Paul Hanmer is well-known within his own country, but not as widely recognized internationally as other South African jazz contemporaries. This compilation -- intended to bring wider recognition to South African jazz musicians -- features compositions and performances by Hanmer, pianist Bheki Mseleku, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt, saxophonist Moses Khumalo and the Sheer Allstars, among others. It's a terrific introduction to some of today's best modern jazz from South Africa.

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Song
Naivasha (The Moon in a Bowl)
Album
Africa Straight Ahead
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Heads Up

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