This past summer I supervised fourteen New School graduate students for the school’s international field program in Cape Town. The students interned at a range of local organizations — a mix of NGOs, social movements and media organizations. You can watch a video (filmed by Dylan Valley) of the program here (watch from 1:33:27). One of […]
Recently the life and career of the South African jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin has been the subject of both popular and scholarly attention. In the last two years alone, she’s been the subject of an excellent documentary film (“Sathima’s Windsong” by anthropologist Daniel Yon) and she is one of four jazz musicians profiled in Africa Speaks, America Answers: […]
Uploaded in mid-August on YouTube, this 1968 clip may be the earliest known clip of Abdullah Ibrahim. In the video, a wiry (all arms and legs) Ibrahim is performing with his band at the time — consisting of John Tchicai, Gato Barbieri, Barre Phillips and Makaya Ntshoko — on German television: If you haven’t had enough […]
The London Festival of Photography has opened, and one of its most appealing features is an exhibition of images by Steve Bloom – Beneath the Surface – a unique document of South African life in the 1970s. There are images of squatters camps, protests (and police violence) in Cape Town, the demolition of buildings in […]
In Toronto-based Dan Yon’s documentary of Sathima “Bea” Benjamin, the Cape Town-born jazz singer, the narration moves back and forth between New York City, where Benjamin was a long-term resident, and Cape Town, where she began singing as a young girl during the forced removals instituted by the Group Areas Acts. The narration bridging the two cities, and Benjamin’s multitude of losses (and gains) is interspersed with the melodic imaginative leaps that only a voice such as hers can bridge. Only her voice lies between two cities, and immeasurable, oceanic longing: her song making tentative vocal incursion and excursions, in and out with the tide and forces beyond her control.
On a recent trip to London I was hoping to catch a performance by Cape Town drummer Louis Moholo Moholo, the last surviving member of the famed jazz bands, The Blue Notes and The Brotherhood of Breath. Especially with the release of “Before the Wind Changes,” a live recording of The Blue Notes on tour in Belgium in 1979.
Via the excellent Matsuli Music: I’ve been hunting down a copy of this LP for many moons when out of the blue I saw one of my favourite stores (Honest Jon’s in London) advertising a new vinyl reissue from Rhino. It’s a lesser known sixties recording featuring Dollar Brand that I was first alerted to by […]
From historian Robin Kelley’s retelling* of the day in 1964 that Thelonius Monk met the South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, then still known as Dollar Brand: … [Monk and his wife, Nellie] were at Kongresshaus in Zurich where Monk gave another successful concert. After the show, a tall, lanky black man with a heavy accent […]
Recently I reviewed the new 3-part Strutt Records compilation, “Next Stop … Soweto,” for The National. The album series are re-releases of rare 45s and other recordings from 1960s and 1970s South Africa. The first installment showcases “Township Sounds from the Golden Age of Mbaqanga” (cover above). This is the kind of music that drove Paul Simon’s “Graceland” […]