Kick It Up With South African Jazz

fromWESA

The African Jazz Pioneers kick it, South Africa style.

hide captionThe African Jazz Pioneers kick it, South Africa style.

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

  • Album: 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection
  • Song: Grazing in the Grass

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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  • "Grazing in the Grass"
  • Album: 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection
  • Artist: Hugh Masekela
  • Label: Hip-O Records
  • Released: 2006
 
Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival

The African Jazz Pioneers

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

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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  • "Kofifi"
  • Album: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
  • Artist: The African Jazz Pioneers
  • Label: Celluloid
  • Released: 1996
 
Cover for Bombella

Abdullah Ibrahim

  • Album: Bombella
  • Song: African River

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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  • "African River"
  • Album: Bombella
  • Artist: Abdullah Ibrahim
  • Label: Sunnyside
  • Released: 2010
 
Cover for Africa Straight Ahead

Paul Hanmer

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • 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. 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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  • "Naivasha (The Moon in a Bowl)"
  • Album: Africa Straight Ahead
  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Label: Heads Up
  • Released: 2004
 
Fondo

Vieux Farka Toure

  • Album: Fondo
  • Song: Fafa

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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  • "Fafa"
  • Album: Fondo
  • Artist: Vieux Farka Touré
  • Label: Six Degrees
  • Released: 2009
 

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