Kick It Up With South African Jazz

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The African Jazz Pioneers kick it, South Africa style.

The African Jazz Pioneers kick it, South Africa style. Photo Illustration: Lars Gotrich; photos: Intuition Records, iStock. hide caption

itoggle caption Photo Illustration: Lars Gotrich; photos: Intuition Records, iStock.

Jazz music 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 — and especially to South Africa, where it remains a part of the country's rich musical fabric

In honor of the FIFA World Cup in the "rainbow nation," this edition of Take Five features four South African jazz artists and a Malian world/blues tune from Vieux Farka Toure, one of the performers at the World Cup kickoff concert.

Please tell us about your favorite South African jazz artists, or your favorite soccer team, in the comments section below.

Kick It Up With South African Jazz

Best Of/20th Century

Hugh Masekela

  • Song: Grazing in the Grass
  • From:

Trumpeter Hugh Masekela is one of the best-known South African jazz artists. Over the years, he's played jazz, Afro-pop, world fusion, funk and R&B, often with South African folk strains. "Grazing in the Grass" is his most recognized composition here in the U.S. It's one of few instrumental songs to top the Billboard chart, which it did in 1968.

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Song
Grazing in the Grass
Album
20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection
Artist
Hugh Masekela
Label
Hip-O Records
Released
2006

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Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival

The African Jazz Pioneers

  • Song: Kofifi
  • From: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival

The African Jazz Pioneers' members perform their brand of South African township-style jazz on this live 1991 recording. Township jazz originated in the 1950s in Sophiatown (also known as Kofifi), a suburb of Johannesburg. Bandleader and saxophonist Ntemi Piliso was there at the beginning. In the 1980s, he formed the Jazz Pioneers and launched a rebirth of township jazz, a jubilant mesh of mainstream jazz and traditional African sounds.

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Song
Kofifi
Album
Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
Artist
The African Jazz Pioneers
Label
Celluloid
Released
1996

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Cover for Bombella

Abdullah Ibrahim

  • Song: African River
  • From: Bombella

Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) is one of the most prominent jazz musicians from South Africa. Even when he was forced to flee his homeland in the 1960s due to Apartheid, Africa never left his focus or spirit. On Bombella, Ibrahim puts nine of his own compositions (and one Thelonious Monk tune) into the capable hands of the WDR Big Band Cologne.

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Song
African River
Album
Bombella
Artist
Abdullah Ibrahim
Label
Sunnyside
Released
2010

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Cover for Africa Straight Ahead

Paul Hanmer

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Song: Naivasha (The Moon in a Bowl)
  • From: Africa Straight Ahead

Pianist Paul Hanmer is well-known within his own country, but not as widely recognized internationally. 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.

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Song
Naivasha (The Moon in a Bowl)
Album
Africa Straight Ahead
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Heads Up
Released
2004

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Fondo

Vieux Farka Toure

  • Song: Fafa
  • From: Fondo

After a brief, beautiful, bluesy guitar intro, Vieux Farka Toure (son of the late Malian guitar master Ali Farka Toure) eases into "Fafa," becoming more expressive with each verse. The English translation of the intro is, "Some people have no idea how important brotherhood is." Though the "brotherhood" expressed here has a far deeper meaning than English can possibly illustrate, the word seems fitting for a month celebrating the brotherly joining together of millions of soccer fans.

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Song
Fafa
Album
Fondo
Artist
Vieux Farka Touré
Label
Six Degrees
Released
2009

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