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: […]
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.
Following his lengthy Thelonius Monk biography, historian Robin DG Kelley, has a new book, “Africa Speaks, America Answers,” on how “modern Africa reshaped jazz, how modern jazz helped form a new African identity, and how musical convergences and crossings altered the politics and culture of both continents.” The book covers the careers of four artists. […]
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 […]