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International jazz events head to York

Posted on 27 August 2015

A pioneering series of live music events, discussions, film showings, public lectures, book readings and record launches exploring South African Jazz will take place at the University of York this month.

Duku Makasi and Tete Mbambisa taken in Langa Stadium in 1972 (image © Ian Bruce Huntley)

Funded jointly by the British Academy and the Department of Music, the events will launch South African Jazz Cultures and the Archive - a two year British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship project in association with the University’s Department of Music.

Taking place from 4 – 9 September 2015, events will feature internationally renowned names, culminating in a concert at the National Centre for Early Music. All events are open to the public and the majority are free.

Highlights of the 6 day programme at York include:

  • A round-table discussion with Adam Glasser, South African harmonica player and pianist, Tete Mbambisa, a musician and key influence on the generation of South African exiles who transformed the London jazz scene post-1964, Nduduzo Makhathini, South African jazz pianist and composer, and Pinise Saul, vocalist and co-founder of the London-based South African ­Gospel ­Singers. They will listen to and discuss a repertoire of South African jazz compositions, suggesting inclusions in the Jazz Standards Legacy Project (Sunday 6 September, Berwick Saul Building, 3.00 – 4.30pm)
  • Catherine and Darius Brubeck, collaborators on jazz education projects in South Africa for almost 25 years, will read sketches from Jazz Life, a book in progress, documenting their life meeting remarkable people and living through challenging times (Saturday 5 September, Rymer Auditorium, 5.00 – 6.15pm).
  • Eugene Skeef, musician and activist, will share scenes from his film about the impact of the legendary South African musician and personal friend, Bheki Mseleku. Skeef was forced to leave his native South Africa in 1980 and go into exile because of his political and cultural activism with Steve Biko and other colleagues from the Black Consciousness Movement (Saturday 5 September, Rymer Audiorium, 6.30 – 7.45pm)
  • A discussion on Women in South African Jazz with Dr Lindelwa Dalamba, jazz historian, Maxine McGregor, author, and vocalists Vuyiswa Ngcwangu and Pinise Saul. They will discuss and challenge the idea that jazz music operates in a male-dominated, homosocial world (Sunday 6 September, 5.00 – 6.30pm, Berwick Saul Building)
  • Tete Mbambisa and his ‘Big SA-UK Sound’ will perform at the National Centre for Early Music on Wednesday 9 September (7.30 – 9.30pm). Mbambisa will be reunited with drummer Gilbert Matthews, who he worked with in South Africa before Matthews left for European exile.
  • Award-winning South African film maker, Aryan Kaganof, will document all York events. Internationally recognised for his films An Inconsolable Memory, Giant Steps and Blue Notes for Bra Geoff, Kaganof will edit a film from the footage at the end of the two year project.

Dr Jonathan Eato, Lecturer in the Department of Music and project lead, said: “This is a terrifically exciting and profound project with an international reach. Exploring the legacy of South African jazz, the project aims to encourage critical engagement with musical thinking and priorities, rather than socio-historical information.

“Tete Mbambisa’s band at the National Centre for Early Music will feature British musicians who worked with the South African exiles in London. With the exception of Louis Moholo-Moholo, the members of the influential exile band The Blue Notes passed on before the end of apartheid and consequently never returned to live and work permanently in South Africa. As such this is a re-joining of a broken chain of musical knowledge that left with The Blue Notes in the 1960s, was added to and developed by three decades of work in exile, but which never passed back to the South African musicians who remained at home. The fact that this is happening in York is wonderful and is a unique opportunity to hear from South African jazz legends, and see some fantastic performances.”

The ongoing Jazz in South Africa (JISA) project, which aims to developing a critical understanding of the topic informed by the thinking of the musicians themselves,  will eventually provide an archived online resource featuring interviews with musicians, musical research, discographies and recorded discussions.

The project also provides two fully funded Masters studentships to work on the archive at Stellenbosch University, assisting in interviewing and producing video and print output. These have been awarded to Nduduzo Makhathini and Kyle Shepherd, both established award-winning jazz musicians.

Further information:

  • For further information about the Jazz in South Africa project, and to view event information in full, visit:
  • All events are open to the public, and the majority are free, although it is necessary to book a ticket.
  • The JISA project is maintained by Dr Eato and is a result of research leave from the University of York’s Department of Music and a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
  • The York events will launch the British Academy project, with the BA funding the travel of Professor Stephanus Muller, Nduduzo Makhathini, and Aryan Kaganof. The remainder of the funding is from the University of York’s Department of Music’s external engagement award co-ordinated by Professor Roger Marsh.

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