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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Ejazznews - South Africa: a Jazz Haven

Posted by: editoron Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 08:18 AM

Nii Laryea Korley

The Bassline is a small live jazz venue in Melville, Johannesburg in South Africa. It is often jam- packed on weekends with fans who want to hear the hot stars of South African jazz. On such nights, the stage could be occupied by Zim Ngqawana, Selaelo Selota, Bekhi Khoza, Tony Cox, Pops Mohamed, McCoy Mrubata, Jimmy Dludlu, Musa Manzini, Jonas Gwangwa, Sipho Mabuse, Sipho Gumede, Hugh Masekela or any of the brilliant players who have helped project South Africa as the only country outside of America with a unique jazz sound.

The Bassline, like other well-known clubs like Green Dolphin in Cape Town, The Rainbow in Durban and Sof'town in Johannesburg, has grown into a warm nest for home grown talent.One of its managers, Brad Holmes, wrote in 1998: "In 1994 I harnessed an absolute passion for South African jazz and made a home for it at the Bassline. I dreamt of bringing South Africans their own music. I wanted them to hear the sounds of their own country singing, not the borrowed strains of some other land. The Bassline believes in South African music and local star structure." Many South Africans feel that 'jazz' is an inadequate term to express the unmatched vibrancy of the music and its people. Jazz there has absorbed a range of distintively local musical idioms including kwela, marabi, and mbaqanga. These original South African melodies are underpinned by indigenous fusion-styled rhythms. Original African instruments such as mbira, local drums and xylophones are usually combined with the normal drum-kit, saxophones, guitars, electric bass, keyboards and trumpets in a freedom of creative expression.

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