Research seminar

Wednesday 3 February 2016, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Jonathan Eato (University of York)

Serve with Curry and Rice: the ghoemaisation of jazz at the Cape

Since its founding, Cape Town has been a regionally dominant site for arrivals by sea. Many of these were profoundly troublesome and, in the pre-digital era especially, they also had a near monopoly on transnational musical flows to the Cape.

Local communities have long absorbed, mixed and – most interestingly – reconfigured these varied musical imports. For example the combination of imperial and slaving activities practiced by the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie from the mid-seventeenth century had the side effect of bringing both Indonesian and Dutch musics to the Cape that transmuted into Cape Malay Choir Nederlandsliedjies. And 19thC editions of the Cape Times evidence musical entertainments amongst English speaking settler communities that combined western art music, popular song and vaudeville acts in an arrangement adopted and adapted in the Concert and Dance culture of early South African jazz. 

Various religious and military musics of European imperial forces have also been co-opted for local ends, as have Glee singing and minstrelsy, but it is a uniquely Capetonian articulation of jazz that is the focus here. Paying particular attention to one of Cape Town’s pre-eminent musical markers, the ghoema beat, this paper will explore how that marker has been adapted from the moppies of the Kaapse Klopse and Cape Malay Choirs to shape the quintisential Cape Town sound, Cape Jazz.


Jonathan Eato is a composer and saxophone player with interests in a wide range of contemporary musics, jazz, improvisation, South African popular music, interdisciplinary performance, music and postcoloniality, and music for dance.

From 2007-2008 Jonathan was a visiting research fellow at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, working on questions of performance practice in South African jazz. In 2010 he produced Black Heroes, a new solo piano recording by South African jazz legend Tete Mbambisa and he recently contributed an essay on a newly available South African jazz archive for the book Keeping Time: 1964-1974 the photographs and Cape Town jazz recordings of Ian Bruce Huntley (ed. Chris Albertyn). Jonathan is a contributor to the forthcoming volume Jazz and Totalitarianism (ed. Bruce Johnson) for the Routledge Transnational Jazz Series and is co-applicant with Professor Stephanus Muller for South African Jazz Cultures and the Archive (2015-17), a two year British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship designed to facilitate a critical engagement with archival initiatives in South African jazz.

Location: I/D003