Africa and Jazz (via Mail & Guardian Africa)

Full Title: Africa 3.0: How a new society is revealed by the continent’s jazz music and writers

I LISTEN to jazz music. A lot of it. And I like, especially the earlier material, of jazz musicians like South Africa’s Jonathan Butler. I am intrigued by the growth of jazz in East Africa, and have great admiration for the pioneering work the “leading men” of the current  generation of players like Kenya’s Chris Bittok have done.

Yet, when Jonathan Butler performed recently in Nairobi, I bought a ticket but didn’t make it to the show, in the end. Bittok had a show on the weekend not too far from where I live, but I didn’t get to see him as I had planned. In both cases, I was derailed by work.

Not too long ago, barring a serious crisis, I would have put everything else aside and attended, because I would have waited for the performances for years – and if I had missed them I wouldn’t have had a chance to see them for a long while again.

Not any more. I can catch a Butler or Bittok performance any time I want to in a major African city, or one of the several jazz festivals on the continent that didn’t exist until the last few years.

The point is that I am spoilt for choice these days when it comes to jazz by African musicians. I can decide to listen to Ugandan jazz musicians, and have my fill of Pragmo, Brian Mugenyi, and Isiah Katumwa.

I can do Kenya and have Aaron Rimbui, Joseph Hellon, Bittok…the list is endless.

I can dive into South Africa and, where do I start? Hugh Masekela doesn’t count. He is not mortal; he is up there with the gods. Jimmy Dludlu, Sipho Mabuse, and the younger pretenders to the throne Bokani Dyer, Tutu Puoane, and Simphiwe Dana.

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