4th Birthday: Jazz Special

4th Birthday: Jazz Special

 Seeing as our Fourth birthday is hosted at The Jazz Cafe, we thought it fitting to invite Joe Smith aka Bungalow Road, curator of the Rough Guide to South African Jazz, to put together a track list of some of his favourite tunes. 

This mix includes marabi, jive and soulful sounds from the 1950s to the 1980s, a golden era of jazz in South Africa. The music composed during this time was intrinsically linked to the struggle against apartheid; much was written and performed by musicians in exile. Two of these musicians, Dorothy Masuka and Miriam Makeba, first began to perform in Sophiatown:  an epicentre of early jazz, culture and politics during the 1940s and 50’s before its demolition by the apartheid government. The forth track on this mix , ‘Song for Biko’, pays tribute to the Steve Biko, one of the most prominent anti-apartheid leaders and leading proponent of Black Consciousness.

In the 1950’s several soon to be famous musicians went on tour in Europe as part of the musical, King Kong. In the all-black cast and band were pianist Dollar Brand, trumpeter Hugh Masekela and  Miriam Makeba. Masekela and Makeba would go on to become the two most famous South African Jazz artists exiled in the USA.

Ndikho Xaba too made a lasting contribution to the jazz improvisation scene and spiritual jazz sound in America. His album  Ndikho Xaba and the Natives is highly sought after. A film about his music and life entitled Shwabada was released last year.

Vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin also spent much of her exile in the USA, regularly performing with Duke Ellington after they met in Europe in 1963.

Dudu Pukwana, who features on four of the tracks in this mix, was perhaps the most prolific of exiled musicians in Europe. Pukwana performed on the recording of Gwgwi Mrwebi’s Nyusamkhaya and in his own ensembles (Spear, Zila and Assagai). The 7th track on this mix, ‘Dalani’, is from Assagai’s 1971 album Zimbabwe .

The eighth song in this mix features the big band sound of Brotherhood of Breath, also one of Pukwana’s bands, made up of South African jazz musicians exiled in London. The group were regular performers at the 100 club on Oxford Street and at Ronnie Scott’s.

FB: Bungalow Road Radio


1.Dorothy Masuka- Zoo Lake
2.Nyusamkhaya- Kwela
3.Jabula – Sikala
4.Johnny Dyani- Song for Biko
5.Sathima Bea Benjamin- Children of Soweto
6.Hugh Masekela- Stimela
8.Brotherhood of Breath- Mra
9.Hugh Masekela & Letta Mbulu- U Se Mcani
10.Hugh Masekela & Letta Mbulu- Awe Mfana
11.Dudu Pakwana- Diamond Express
12.Zacks Nkosi- Emgungu Ndhlovu
13.Jazz Dazzlers – Makambati
14.Miriam Makeba-Mayibuye