Since the early 1960s South African jazz musicians in exile together with their international counterparts have used the freedom of South African jazz to not only strongly influence European jazz music but also fight the struggle against apartheid. Their sacrifices made a significant contribution to the freedom and opportunities we experience as a nation today.
One of the fore-most proponents was bass player, composer and ANC member in exile Johnny Mbizo Dyani. Born in Duncan Village, East London Mr Dyani went into exile at the age of 17 with the famous Blue Notes.
Mr Dyani’s contribution was remarkable from three perspectives: his prolific and collaborative career illustrates the unity in diversity that is achieved through music; his compositions and albums bring awareness to struggle icons such as Steve Biko, Lillian Ngoyi, Nelson and Winnie Mandela; and he established the movement abroad called Jazz Against Apartheid (JAA).
JAA was started In 1986 in Berlin together by Mr Jürgen Leinhos, a now 82-year old German, and his Frankfurt-based initiative “Kultur im Ghetto” (Culture in the Ghetto). Although Mr Dyani tragically passed away the same year, Mr Leinhos continued the event annually. In 2021 President Cyril Ramaphosa bestowed the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in silver on him for his commitment and determination against apartheid and for standing by the oppressed and fighting for their cause as an anti-apartheid activist.
Although Dyani died shortly after the inaugural event in 1986, Leinhos has preserved this treasure for South Africans with roughly 100 Concerts, Poetry recitals, Workshops, Exhibitions and Symposia in Germany, Switzerland and the USA presenting the music of Johnny Mbizo Dyani.
Now that Leinhos’s life’s work has been recognised in South Africa with the prestigious OR Tambo presidential award (2021), the timing is perfect for the politically and culturally achievements of exiled South African jazz musicians together with the supportive creative and collaborative German jazz musicians to return to South Africa to share, inspire and create a fresh collaborative musical experience.
Jazz Against Apartheid as a movement for change
JAA is first of all a series of concerts organized by both musicians and
political/cultural activists. It is searching for allies and supporters and
remains a free association of people dedicated to the cause of freedom and individual and social solidarity and responsibility.
Overcoming apartheid was the first and foremost aim. However as Jürgen described, “Overcoming apartheid does not stop once apartheid – being a name and definition of a political system – stops. Since isolating political voices and groups not only from the political process, but from education, health care, etc. have not stopped, JAA still has a legitimate reason to exist.”
What has changed are the musicians – because of the deaths of all
but one of the original members of Johnny Dyani´s band in 1986. What remains the same is the music and its message: of liberation,
of the possibility of individual and collective freedom, of the necessity
of political struggle while retaining one´s humanity.
The relevance of the “Beyond Exile” concert series today is bringing into popular awareness what was politically and culturally achieved by exile artists such as Dyani, Pukwana, McGregor, Schadeberg and others that still has not been recognized in the country where they came from – in South Africa.
Jazz Against Apartheid: “Beyond Exile” contributes to this knowledge within South Africa of South African music and musicians and what they continue to stand for.
For 36 years JAA has created and presented concerts that express and explore the depth of meaning and potential not only ni the music -cultural expressions presented, but also ni the context ofcultural exchange and international cooperation.ALLEN JACOBSON
To become familiar with a part of our own exile history aims in different directions. On the one hand, we want to make an essential aspect of the buried cultural heritage accessible to a young generation of professional jazz musicians who have grown up in the post-apartheid society. And also to make others aware with this “homecoming” of the richness of the artistic heritage that has been cultivated over decades in Europe and especially in Germany.
Because this exchange is not a one-way street, we also want to give the young jazz musicians in South Africa the opportunity to encounter the contemporary influences of Europe in this music, as they are embodied and audible in our project