Jazz Fought the struggle and won: the inspiring story of the jazz freedom fighters in exile lead by the magician of the ostinato – Johnny Mbizo Dyani.
Born in Duncan Village, East London 30 November 1945, Johnny Mbizo Dyani is perhaps one of the greatest unsung heroes of South African music and may have remained as such were it not for the efforts of Kultur im Ghetto founder Jürgen Leinhos.
For the 36 years since Dyani’s untimely death in Berlin, Leinhos has continued Dyani’s message of musical collaboration and activism through the hosting 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 Dyani’s legacy and Jazz Against Apartheid home to its roots in the Eastern Cape. 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.”
So Many beautiful themes in this journey ::: 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.
South Africa and Germany share inglorious, burdening experiences in their history. The apartheid system in South Africa was inspired in essential points by the race laws of the National Socialists in Germany. And, as a result, the experiences of exile that the cultural avant-garde of both countries went through. Structurally similar is also the ignoring of these very experiences up to the rejection and denial of the achievements of those who had to spend substantial parts of their lives in exile.
With Leinhos’s life’s work being recognised in South Africa with the prestigious OR Tambo presidential award (2021), a space was created for the political and cultural 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.
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. JAA is a testimony to the passionate struggle against apartheid, a biography of a life in exile and a complete documentation of 25 years of exile history.