FOR YOUR DIARY AUGUST-OCTOBER

This received from Aymeric Peguillan. Especially useful for readers outside Joburg who do not see some of these bands as often as they’d like:

Dear all,

Hope this finds you well-

You might have tuned in last Sunday to check the new series on SA Jazz produced by Militia Broadcast and broadcast on DSTV´s Channel 321 Sunday afternoons at 4pm.

This series of 13 episodes of 48 minutes each will present for the next few weeks some of the best young talents on the SA Jazz scene currently. Expertly crafted and with high standards of production, each episode proposes a live set of original compositions by a lead artist and his/her band with cuts into interview with the band leader. The series was shot at a beautiful private location in downtown Johannesburg (By Library Gardens) on the 8th floor.

Eban Olivier is the founder and artistic director of Militia Broadcast. It is under his direction that this series was produced. We (Eban and I) had the pleasure to first collaborate on the 1st anniversary of The Orbit Home of Jazz in March 2015 when we filmed the entire week of the festival that took place at the time. Following this great collaboration, Eban Olivier approached Aymeric Peguillan of PEGS MUSIC PROJECTS to executive produce with him the series. We are hoping to make additional series in the future to document the fantastic dynamic that exists on the local Jazz scene at the moment.

The series will air every Sunday for the next 12 weeks with a repeat the same day later in the evening.

Artists in order are as follows:

06 AUG – Nhlanhla Mahlangu ́s DaniMali (passed – last Sunday )

13 AUG – Vuma Levin Quintet
20 AUG – Benjamin Jephta Quintet

27 AUG – Siya Makuzeni Sextet

03 SEP – Mandla Mlangeni & Friends

10 SEP – Mkizwana Ensemble

17 SEP – Sisonke Xonti Iyonde

24 SEP – Newskool Sextet Ft. Tsepho Tsotetsi

01 OCT – Andre Petersen Quartet

08 OCT – Africa Plus Fet. Sphelelo Mazibuko, Prince Bulo and Lungelo Ncgobo

15 OCT – Keenan Ahrends Quartet

22 OCT – Luyanda Madope and H3 featuring Mthunzi Mvubu

29 OCT – Africapella featuring Titi Luzipo

 

Produced by Militia Broadcast.
Directed by Eban Olivier.
Executive Producers – Eban Olivier, Lance Stehr and Aymeric Peguillan
Sound and Backline: Smack Entertainment
Editor: Greg Pereira
Final Mix: Marius Brouwer
Production Manager: Willem Van Der Walt

https://mzansimagic.dstv.com/video/mzansi-magic-music-brings-you-downtown-jazz-sessions

 

Women in music – not just ‘the singer with the band’

 

August is South African Women’s Month: another excuse for opportunists (from all political parties, and none) to celebrate deeply stereotyped gender roles, shed crocodile tears about gender violence, and ignore South Africa’s ingrained, institutional patriarchy. Elle magazine has chosen to mark the month with a special edition on Women in Music. That’s a decent gesture, and, within its limitations, the magazine does a decent job.

Linda-Tshabalala
Linda Tshabalala, reed player

Unsurprisingly, like most of what appears in the consumer/lifestyle media, any feminism is fairly lite. Paging through, we encounter Amanda Black as cover star; the fashion editor’s reflections and riffs on Ma Brrr’s sartorial style; an interview with US showbiz stylist June Ambrose; and mini-profiles of 13 other female musicians including Thandi Ntuli and Zoe Modiga. There’s also some consideration of women poets, and a back-page track listing that name-checks Makeba, Aretha (Respect, of course), Joni Mitchell, Madonna, Queen Latifa, India.Arie and Beyonce.  South African music dominates, there’s demographic and genre diversity, the interviewees don’t seem to have been forced into hideous clothing, and nor are they asked any of the obviously dumb questions, or limited (except by the brevity of the edited stories) in how they might respond. From a fashion magazine, it’s as good as – if not somewhat better than – what we might have expected.

lindelwa
Lindelwa Dalamba: music scholar

Except. (There’s always an ‘except’ or two.) Though the inclusion of DJs and a stylist offers slightly more career diversity than we usually see, Elle still reinforces the role stereotype haunting every female instrumentalist, composer, roadie, sound engineer, music writer, music scholar, lighting designer, organiser, manager, arranger, conductor and producer in the industry: ‘Can you sing?”

 

There have been many superb female vocal artists in the history of South African music, and in jazz more generally. (Please don’t call them ‘divas’; the term originated in opera but now carries sackloads of unpleasantly stereotyped gender baggage.) But as the small and arbitrary – there wasn’t room for more – selection of images accompanying this column illustrate, song is not the only thing women can do in music, and the singer/band set-up too often places women in a subordinate role, subject to the musical decisions of male musicians  – and also too often compulsorily trussed up in tight dress, cleavage and crippling shoes. Check the boys’ club bias of most instrumentalists’ ‘jokes’ about singers. Ask any women vocalists you know about costume rules and audition practices (“Wear something low-cut”; “Can you bleach your hair”; “Let’s see you from the back…”; “How about we go out later..?”).

©Masimba Sasa
Clare Loveday, composer

In most musical roles women face such pressures, but prejudice and exclusion are more marked outside singing. As blogging sax player Roxy Coss points out (https://roxycoss.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/never-enough/ ) learning to be an instrumentalist demands behaviour that runs directly counter to conventional female socialization. And until at least a third of the people in any band room are female, it’s harder than it should be to fight that. Less than a third of the women featured on Elle’s pages are non-singers; the context itself creates a subtext of ‘odd one out’.

Classical composer Sarah Kirkland Snider (http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/candy-floss-and-merry-go-rounds-female-composers-gendered-language-and-emotion/) also points out how women are pigeonholed as producing only music that directly accesses and expresses emotions – and then dissed for doing just that. In truth, some women do produce personal, emotional music. So do some men (often attracting, as Snider notes, the same kind of gendered disrespect) – and some don’t. Possibly the worst insult offered to women’s music that doesn’t fit the mould is “You compose/play like a man” – particularly when the moron offering it believes he is paying a compliment… Whether music is ‘good’ or not does not inhere in the music’s emotionality, or lack of such, or depend on the gender of its creator.

roshnie
Roshnie Moonsamy, music organiser

The discourse of the Elle interviews with female artists focuses intensely on the personal and the emotional. It would have been nice if some of the conversations had focused on the ‘how’ questions around music that any skilled professional loves to answer: ‘Tell us how you compose a song?’; ‘How do you shape your sound?’; ‘What’s it like, leading a band?’ and so on…

Interestingly, one producer does seem to have been asked those kinds of questions. He’s a man: Sketchy Bongo, filling the whole of the magazine’s regular ‘Unplugged’ arts page. The same hardworking journalist interviewed both him and the women musicians.

Nothando_migogo-200x300
Nothando Migogo, Chief Executive of the South African Music Rights Organisation

Of course, women are in music in offstage roles too, as the interview with Ambrose indicates. We have some extremely high-profile female music executives in this country too, such as Nothando Migogo pictured right.

But some roles never get written about. Think of the kitchen, cleaning and bar-service workers who keep the wheels of club life and live music oiled. It’s unglamorous, hard work, and often extremely perilous, as a 22-year-old, pregnant club worker discovered back in May. Walking home through central Johannesburg in the early hours – safe as she could manage, in the company of her brother – she was dragged off the street and gang-raped in the notorious ‘Mnyama Ndawo’ building. Her boss expressed astonishment: “It’s really painful what happened. She is a nice girl, she hardly goes out…”

And so stereotypes win out again – would it have been any less ‘painful’ if she had not been, by his definition, ‘a nice girl’? But this time, there’s a healthy added dose of willful employer blindness. He himself (or his boss) put the young woman and all her co-workers in harm’s way by not arranging safe transport home for people toiling for highly unsocial hours. Perhaps these other faces of women working in music deserve a few magazine features too?

Wms Day History
Where it all started…

And perhaps they’d get them, if we rejected, once and for all, the pervasive, reductive, pinkification of the collective fighting spirit that ought to be what we remember on August 9. Then we could sing, too…Vukani Makhosikazi

Happy Women’s Day. 

 

Stop burning libraries: what do we do when a musician dies?

There have been too many deaths in the past few weeks: Johnny Mekoa, Ray Phiri, Errol Dyers. Better if they had not happened – but they did, and stirred up reflections on our collective national response. Because “when an elder dies, a library burns” – and given apartheid’s deliberate erasure of culture and memory (forced removals, with families permitted to carry little with them; re-tribalisation under the shadow of a whitewashed parody of “tradition) those libraries are becoming impossible to restore.

Politicians respond – sometimes timeously, sometimes slightly too late – with boilerplate tributes that often sound like the same track on repeat. There may be references to how the departed “died in poverty” – as though this was surprising, despite it being the condition of a majority of South Africans, particularly those in freelance, precarious and poorly-paid occupations like music. They rarely draw a link between musicians dying in poverty and the absence of, say, universal basic income grants, or more favourable tax, zoning and subsidy arrangements for live music, or a host of other music-specific and general measures that are the policy responsibilities of those same politicians. Without political will, more libraries will burn.

The media respond with obituaries. Or they do sometimes, at least: we all still remember the shameful silence of almost every major platform on the passing of the world-famous Pinise Saul and Lucky Ranku last year. Often those obituaries are as boilerplate as the political eulogies, showing signs of, at best, a quick trawl through Google for an album title or two. If, as was the case with Dyers, Google carries little, the obituary is perforce a short one. In most newsrooms there are no specialist reporters, and increasingly no in-house archive of interviews and profiles to consult. Past stories have not been digitised; current stories are hardly being commissioned or published. The Business Day Life page no longer even carries the word ‘music’. Alongside ‘books’, ‘theatre’ and other genres is merely the word ‘entertainment’, signalling how music has been stripped of any discourse beyond commodification. In newsrooms, there is already no music library to burn.

The academy – our universities and colleges – responds hardly at all. Dead politicians get libraries and research institutes named after them; graduate students are encouraged to research the minutiae of their lives and publish prolifically. Dead musicians? Not so much. When the last playing partner or fan who remembers Errol Dyers also passes, his memorabilia will have been scattered and his life and legacy will be reduced to that handful of not entirely accurate Google entries. That library has already burned.

So of course, we have to do it ourselves. Here’s the start of a discography for Dyers, compiled from what little public information exists. With the Cape’s flowering of young bands in the 70s and 80s, I can’t believe he didn’t participate in any project between District Six in 1976 and Mantra Mode in 1991. Can any readers of this blog add knowledge – not for any commercial purpose, but just so this particular library doesn’t completely burn?

_________________

Errol Dyers: a short discography

UPDATED ON AUGUST 3,4. Thanks to Nigel Vermaas, Attiya Khan, Rafs Mayet and Jonathan Eato who provided additional information. And now to Terrence Scarr and Patrick Lee-Thorpe too. More, please!!!

(As leader)

  • Sonesta 1997 (Sheer Sound)
  • Koukouwa 1999 (Sheer Sound)
  • Best of Errol Dyers & Friends 2003 (Sheer Sound)
  • (with Hilton Schilder and Steve Newman) All In One 2009 ( Swett Shoppe)

(As contributing musician)

  • Remember – District Six 1976 (CBS)
  • Vastrap Island 1991 – Robbie Jansen (Sea Records/EWM, CDSEK 101)
  • (with Abdullah Ibrahim) Mantra Mode 1991
  • Cape Jazz 2 compilation 1997 [Mountain Records (MOU 75020)] duo Errol Dyers /Basil Coetzee : “Majietas
  • Molo Africa 1998 – Winston Mankunku (Nkomo Records / Sheer Sound, NK0010)

(with the Sheer All Stars):

  • Indibano 1999
  • Live at the Blues Room 2002
  • The World in A Guitar (DVD) 2002 with Tony Cox and Steve Newman at the Market Theatre (ANYBODY GOT FURTHER DISCOG. DETAILS ONTHIS?)
  • Dudula 2004 – Winston Mankunku (Nkomo Records / Sheer Sound, NK007)
  • Nomad / Jez 2005 – Robbie Jansen (Mountain Records, CD MOU 4484)
  • Cape Jazz 3 compilation 2007 [Mountain Records (MOU 4488)] on “Sonesta”, and with Robbie Jansen on “Alabama”
  • Musical Democracy 2013 – with the Cape Jazz Band Mountain Records MOU4747

And here’s some video too – starting with this, originally posted by Tony Cox (thanks & respect!) of him & Errol at the Officers’ Club, Claremont, in 1986. The first clue to the thing no biographies currently tell us: about his work and collaborations in the ’80s. ASTOUNDING guitar solo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxsBSk4wPeU (at the Green Dolphin)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wixH4iQ36fE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DnfRaV091s (at Kaliedoscope Café)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DnfRaV091s (at the Market Theatre with Tony Cox & Steve Newman)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSG3ZgFenG8 (at the Crypt)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iju-uLM_zjU (with Jonathan Rubain, for Bush Radio)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPNL6f5vpos (the All in One collaboration wih Hilton Schilder and Steve Newman at the Alliance Francaise)