i play what i like
The Johnny Dyani Story
How Jazz fought the struggle and won :
All over the world, South African jazz fought the struggle and won. Beyond Exile is the inspiring story of the jazz freedom fighters in exile and their journey to restore cultural memory in South Africa, 30 years after the fall of apartheid.
Duncan village, Cape Town, Joburg
(1945 – 1962)
We dive directly into Johnny’s formative years as an acapella singer, a pianist, bassist here at home in Duncan Village (1945 – 1962). We revel in the vocal groups of Duncan Village, we journey through the young giants of Eastern Cape Jazz (Feza, Pukwana), we experience his bass mentorship through the Jazz Wizards all the way to his baptism into free jazz of the legends of Port Elisabeth, Cape Town and Dorkay House to the formation of South Africa’s first mixed band – the Blue Notes.
Exile in Europe (1964 – 1986)
We journey through the arrival of the exiled Blue Notes in Europe, the famous Ronnie Scott’s encounters, the break away of Moholo and Dyani to Buenos Aires right up the maturity of Dyani – where he becomes a foremost composer and collaborator on the European jazz scene. It was the hunger of the South African musicians and their transformation of the oppression, suppression and depression of exile into musical community that birthed the free-jazz movement in Europe.
JAA est. ’86
After Dyani’s prophetic chants, “Think, it is good for you,” he dies at the inaugural Jazz Against Apartheid in Berlin 1986. Juergen Leinhos and his organistaion Kultur im Ghetto continue the event building on the SA exiles and growing the movement to progressive European musicians, but always built on the social consciousness of skills transfer and musical freedom. The JAA Archive if this era is a complete archive of 25 years of exile history.
Kultur im Ghetto in Frankfurt, Germany partnered with Sausage Films to bring the legacy of Dyani home to Buffalo City in 2022. 36 years in the making. This concert was a first for South Africa, the Eastern Cape and his home community of Duncan Village and raised the important questions – are the future generations ready to hear he musical heroes of their past and what and what knowledge and wisdom will exposure to these cultural roots bring forward?
Beyond exile, unites “old” fighters for elementary freedoms with new and future generations, thus bridging the gap between geography and history. From its founding in Frankfurt am Main in 1985 as a progressive art platform and social movement that drew attention to the problems in apartheid South Africa, to the return to its roots in the Eastern Cape, the native language of the Xhosa and the deep tradition of Xhosa spirituality and beyond: Beyond exile impacts on the future generations of South Africans and back on German society, asking what developments are possible from (exile) history.
At the age of 85 jazz against apartheid founder Jürgen Leinhos continues his urgency to share the message of musical collaboration and activism. Over the last 40 years he has hosted of 100 Jazz Against Apartheid concerts, in Europe and America. These concerts united and profiled the liberation movement whilst connecting to the progressive cultural activism of the Germans during this period through artistic collaborations between jazz musicians of South African origin in exile and their European counterparts as well as painters, poets, photographers, dancers and writers.
In 2021 President Cyril Ramaphosa bestowed the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in silver on Leinhos for his commitment and determination for standing by the oppressed and fighting for their cause as an anti-apartheid activist.
This recognition opened the gateway to bring the legacy of Jazz Against Apartheid home to its roots in South Africa, so that the art of exile is not lost forever. As Leinhos said in his acceptance speech, “Our concern was and is to save this art of exile from oblivion with the music of Johnny Dyani. In our project Jazz against Apartheid we therefore also see a key for the cultural memory of South Africa.”
The attitude of the South Africans in exile was unique. There was a confidence that is best described from the home environment they had just come from. In Europe the African approach was felt very strong and was at the forefront of a new musical language.
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.
Free music is it man, it’s so beautiful. The word “free” makes sense to me. I know that’s what I want, freedom, let my people go. Let me people go!
I Play What I like
Legacy of exile, heritage, co-operation and collaboration through the oppression, suppression and depression of the political upheaval of apartheid.
Empathy, compassion and musical cross-fertilisation between South Africa and European musicians as a means to overcoming the shared history of institutionalized racism both South Africa and Germany experience.
Nachwuchsforderung” – the conscious policy and practice of transferring societal values, knowledge and skills to the next generation is a core focus for Jazz Against Apartheid and the legacy of Johnny Dyani.
“What is really important? What really matters?” These questions pop up arise when difficulties arise. The answers JAA Homecoming gave were visible and audible: Not giving in to minor upheavals but keeping in mind the objectives ahead – that is: Sharing the vitality of this music, promoting the existence of the forgotten exile (and exiled) art of Johnny Dyani – as one artist among others who was forced to leave the country; and inciting honor and pride for what artists like him fought for and achieved abroad while others, remaining in South Africa, struggled to free themselves from apartheid. Keeping in mind that the fight against apartheid was a shared fight: fought in many different areas, with many different people but with one objective: to end the terror of overall injustice caused by apartheid rule.
Friends of Jazz Against Apartheid
Jazz Against Apartheid shows the sources of jazz are African, and that the freedom of jazz expression can be combined with decidedly political commitment.