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I play what I like – the Johnny Mbizo Dyani Story in film?

Jazz Fought the struggle and won: the inspiring story of the jazz freedom fighters in exile lead by the magician of the ostinato

Film in English with Xhosa, Danish & German sub-titles where appropriate:

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.


The strong commitment of these musicians and activists embodied the struggle for South Africa’s cultural memory. Thy illustrates that the sources of jazz as African and that the freedom of jazz expression lends itself to decidedly political commitment.

There is no greater story than this to show the international role South African jazz has played in equating improvised music with freedom. There is no greater role model than Johnny Dyani, his esteemed collaborators and the future generations from all over the world who have taken on his music. These musicians are like the prophets of freedom through music.

South African jazz exiles like Johnny Dyani exposed the African origin of jazz to Europe, which in turn laid open the universal route of jazz. A lot of that came through with the free music. It opened up a whole new chapter of music in Europe. Just like free jazz negotiated a space of co-operation on the band stand, so the music began to mix with politics and the need to create social harmony, particularly in South Africa.

Homecoming of Johnny Dyani (1945-1986)

Born in Duncan Village, post WW2, 1945 into a musical community, Johnny “Mbizo” Dyani was a natural born bass player. Like any musical genius he went through the phases of life – anger, nostalgia, revolution which bled into the complete spectrum of music he created.

Dyani’s origins and expansion took him from East London to Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, New York and Buenos Aires. The collaborations and various band formations reflect a heightened quest for extending his home brewed music through improvisation.

For residents of the poverty stricken Duncan Village, the news that Johnny Dyani was born in Duncan Village and therefore that “one of us” was first received with astonishment.

Dyani left the country at the age of only 17, he fought against apartheid all over Europe with his music and creativity as his ultimate weapon. He collaborated widely with musicians from all over Europe, and they also got involved in the struggle against apartheid and fought with him and supported his cause. He started a movement that lived on way past his lifetime – and then, to top it all – Johnny Dyani came back to Duncan Village spiritually with his music and colleagues playing his music, keeping alive the memory and rich cultural roots of his South African home.

The sense of pride, identity, belonging that adds to the wonder and astonishment of this story is a joy for one and all to be part of.

What I learned from all of those guys was that if you don’t step out onto the road, you won’t see the traffic coming. And you gotta be sharp enough to be able to step back.
claude deppa

The Buffalo City Homecoming of 2022 provided the return of Jazz Against Apartheid and the legacy of musical prodigy Johnny Dyani to his roots in the Eastern Cape. For the first time ever “old” fighters for elementary freedoms through jazz were united with new and future generations.

“What is really important? What really matters?” These questions pop up arise when difficulties arise. The answers JAA Homecoming gave was 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.

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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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