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Duncan Village to Frankfurt

The Johnny Dyani Story

JAA 1986 © Barbara Mueller

Cultural Memory

beyond exile

How Jazz fought the struggle and won :

beyond exile

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.

JAA 22 © Vuyo Giba

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.

Homecoming 2022

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

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. 

Dialogue sessions

Through dialogue, mentorship and skills transfer, Jazz Against Apartheid is a valuable educational resource with a combination of live, video, written narratives, live, video workshops and music tuition, including the scores of Dyani’s compositions; and a a vibrant contact platform for emerging music business professionals!

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!


JAA 1987 © Barbara Mueller
JAA 1987 © Barbara Mueller 2
JAA 1986 © Barbara Mueller
The Johnny Mbizo Dyani Story

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.

JAA Continues

“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 expands this Frankfurt story to include jazz’s hitherto largely unknown African heritage and a specific hardship of exile. The Jazz Against Apartheid project is the first direct meeting between German and South African musicians to exchange experiences of exile and how they are audible in music.

Dr Ina Hartwig

Head of Department for Culture and Science of the City of Frankfurt

A group of vibrant, polyphonic and very independent South African and German jazz musicians brought the South African jazz sounds to Europe and strongly influenced European music over the years. This was done in the fight against apartheid in the past, but also still in the present.

Ambassador Phumelele Stone Sizana

South African Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany

Jazz against Apartheid connected the experience of racism and oppression in South Africa as well as the role that culture and especially music plays for the hope of a more just future 

Dr Wolfram Knauer

Director Jazz Institute Darmstadt

“Jazz against Apartheid” is a sign of the current close and inspiring cultural contacts between our countries. The cooperation and implementation of the project went smoothly and pleasantly.

Jesko von Samson

Counsellor of Cultural affairs German Embassy in Pretoria

JAA Gallery

Jazz Against Apartheid shows the sources of jazz are African, and that the freedom of jazz expression can be combined with decidedly political commitment.

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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