Five Song Playlist: 21st Century South African Jazz

Guest post by Bob Mali aka Fela Cutie aka Marvin Bae aka Hurt Cobain 

Jazz was once one of the more popular genres in South Africa until it became censored in the 1960s under the apartheid regime. Arguably, some of the biggest musical exports from the country are jazz artists like Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim and Miriam Makeba.

Jazz has reemerged into South African life, though not as the popular musical genre that it was once was. This list is a sample of the youngsters in the South African jazz music scene who are shaking things up and keeping the genre relevant.

First is a track lifted from multi award-winning pianist, Nduduzo Makhathini’s 2015 album Listening to the Ground. The song “King Fela,” I want to believe, is a nod to the God of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti. I mean it’s in the name.

The rest of the list is made up of young female powerhouses. Nono Nkoane, a vocalist and composer who describes her track “Baleka” as “afro drum and bass… vocal rhythms,” is reminiscent of her idol, another famous Xhosa jazz woman, the late Miriam Makeba.

A happy pill in the form of Zoe Media’s “Love (Yahweh)” is followed by parts 1 and 2 of guitarist, pianist, and vocalist Thandi Ntuli’s “It’s Complicated.”

This playlist is a gentle reminder that the jazz music genre isn’t solely reserved for your whiskey-loving uncle who reminds you at every opportunity that “you kids don’t know music, man.” And also a confirmation that the kids are indeed alright.

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