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Vusi Mchunu’s African Prayer

Uniting old fighters for elementary freedoms with new and future generations
The first ever Jazz Against Apartheid concert took place in October 1986 at Quartier Latin Concert Hall. Dyani chanted “Think think think, it is good for you!” He collapsed backstage and was rushed to hospital. He remained in a coma for a week and eventually died from heart failure and internal bleeding. The South African exiles supported the family as they prepared with the ANC for the body to be flown back to S.A.”


After his death, The Jazz Against Apartheid series in Frankfurt and platform was to remain central in spreading this message. Jazz Against Apartheid played a significant role in the dismantling of Apartheid as together with other South African cultural contributions including music, paintings, photography, drama and dance performance, writing; the South African culture as a whole united and profiled the liberation movement whilst connecting to the progressive cultural activism of the Germans during this period.

Due to its relevance to both social and musical liberation, Dyani’s music became utilized and studied in a way by his contemporaries, peers and future generations, most notably through the Jazz Against Apartheid concerts in Frankfurt.

Veterans Gilbert Matthews, Pinise Saul, Ernest Mothle and Lucky Ranku and Louis Moholo shared in this valuable history with Dyani.

Famine : An African Prayer
by Vusi Mchunu

O Mdali weZulu noMhlaba
bare sky is stabbed by arrows of the sun
dry riverbed meanders a path of thirst
dry corn moans the groans of empty bellies
we desert our village
we smash the empty gourd
snakes hiss, hiss
locusts crunch, crunch
bones of our children

O Mdali weZulu noMhlaba

siphe amandla
we are creative beings

O creator of the Heavens and Earth
Original One
Give us perseverance

This poem was spoken by Vusi Mchunu at the inaugural Jazz Against Apartheid event. Vusi recalls. 

“It was the time of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union which dominated the standing of the Anti-Apartheid struggle. The Southern African liberation movements, including the ANC, were anchored in Russia and the east European countries. The Anti-Apartheid movement was quiet diversified in its focus, activities and philosophies. The exiles in West Berlin and West Germany developed and worked with committees from the Christian church, student groups, political formations, the trade unions, the social movements, progressive arts platforms and media platforms to highlight the issues happening in Apartheid South Africa. Germany played an important part in isolating, boycotting and contributing to bring the apartheid regime down. Undoubtedly, the arts in general were the mainstay and visible aspects of the political work that involved cultural and economic boycotts, pickets and demonstrations, conferences and meetings. As a cultural activist, this was my main arena to help bring down the Apartheid python.”

“Johnny’s passing away was apocalyptic similar to a volcanic eruption to the music and his followers at the world and at home. It was as though the dreaded impundulu bird of darkness hovered and lingered above a crimson sky. His healing music aimed to stimulate reflection, meditation and creative healing approaches to the complex of human existence. Diminutive as he had been in physical stature he remains a giant in music and interpretation. Significant players that were his contemporaries like Dollar Brand produced songs in his memory. Dedications by younger musicians inside SA, includes Sipho Gumede “A Song for Johnny Dyani.” Pianist Andile Yenana “Wish you Sunshine.” Also, the painter Mothlebane Moshiangwako “the efforts of those that came before us” and the amazing rap poet Lesego Rampolokeng produced amazing works to celebrate their prophet that had come like a comet and had vanished again leaving a star path of sprouting seeds and gems.”

His healing music aimed to stimulate reflection, meditation and creative healing approaches to the complex of human existence.
Vusi mchunu

The role of Jazz Against Apartheid in the post-apartheid era took on a new and more musical influence. The musicians would gather every year or two for a series of performances and workshops. Trumpeter Harry Beckett, saxophonist John Tchicai, bassist Ernest Mothle and drummer Makaya Ntshoko, all performed with Johnny Dyani and carried his spirit forward during workshops and performances. They were joined from the outset by a few youngsters at the time including Thomas Dyani on percussion and trumpeter Claude Deppa. 

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About Sausage Films

Sausage Films produces audio visual works for better accessibility of South African Jazz and freedom culture to a include wider young and old audiences across gender, age, and colour. Celebrating the pioneers and legends of South African Jazz and freedom who left a legacy of sacrifice, self-expression, wisdom and bravery.

About Jazz Against Apartheid

After the inaugural Jazz Against Apartheid in Berlin 1986. Juergen Leinhos and his organisation Kultur im Ghetto continue the event building on the SA exiles and growing the movement to progressive European musicians. The JAA Archive of this era is a complete archive of 25 years of exile history.

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