A few weeks ago, the Central Library in the Cape Town made a book maze from books that were intended to be pulped. Inserted in between the stacks of books that were packed on the first floor, coming up to my shoulders, and sitting atop the stack was a book, Beyond the Blues: Township Jazz in the 60s and 70s, A Photographic Book. When the maze was disassembled, the public, principals and other libraries were invited to grab a book for free. Amidst the chaos that ensued I got my hands on the book ‘Beyond the Blues’. I have stared at it many times. It invokes in me memories I do not own. Memories I have weaved together from other books and other people. The photographs in it are not just works of art but they are ways in which a memory can be haunted and jolted from its state of forgetting.
In Cape Town jazz here is not just jazz. It’s a whole lot more. For one, it is a dance style that continues to be the predominant feature of successive generations of Cape Flats families. Almost similar to what is called salsa in the Latino communities, jazzing on the Cape Flats is now somewhat of a tradition. And I use tradition in a deliberate way, to think about inheritances of practices that are shared, dynamic and made and remade anew, but always defined also by what is continued as it is passed down.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man that so many South Africans have come to love, even those who grew up being taught that he was a communist and a terrorist when communism was portrayed as a great evil. He achieved so much in his life, but what he achieved was for the people of South Africa–not for himself. Nelson Mandela, in his biography A Long Walk To Freedom says “It is music and dancing that make me at peace with the world.” Many jazz artists have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela over the years, and I felt it fitting to dedicate one of my radio shows to this music as a tribute.