Last Updated
Thursday 18 December 2014, 14:58 pm.
African Jazz Pioneers return to Botswana

Famed South African Afro jazz group, African Jazz Pioneers will be back in the country, courtesy of the Botswana Craft where they will stage a show on March 30.
By Staff Writer Sat 20 Dec 2014, 04:58 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: African Jazz Pioneers return to Botswana








The group will share the stage with Ntate Bhudaza Maphefane from Lesotho and local Afro jazz artist, Socca Moruakgomo. 

For some music revellers, the African Jazz Pioneers show will be sentimental for some reasons.  Afro Jazz Pioneers' greatest show in Gaborone was in the mid-90s at the defunct Oriental Express at the Village.  This is one of the shows that you would not easily erase from your memory if you had attended it.  That was at a time when the founder member of the group, Ntemi Piliso, was still alive.  You could still recall the members of the ensemble all in white shirts and black pants. Piliso died in 2000 aged 75. 

And the African Jazz Pioneers were in the country again about four years back when they performed at the Lizard Lounge.  According to music.org.za, it was Piliso who nourished the group from their humble roots to their current international acclaim.  In the early 50s, Piliso and his "Alexandra All Star" band hit the cutting edge of South Africa's music scene, blending American urban big band style with traditional Majuba tempos and Marabi music influences.

At the centre of this great musical movement was Sophiatown otherwise known as "Kofifi", a thrilling community of artists, musicians, gangsters, writers and political leaders making their mark on South Africa's growing urban culture.  Despite pass laws, bannings and censorship, discriminatory practices by recording companies and state controlled radio, forced removals and the violent bulldozing of Sophiatown, the African Jazz Pioneers and other South African musicians survived apartheid and evolved their music.  After the easing of the cultural boycott in 1990, the African Jazz Pioneers were among the first to travel abroad, heading jazz venues, festivals and concerts in Europe, Australia and Africa.  They shared the stage with great artists like Youssou, N'Dour, Quincy Jones, Manhattan Transfer, Neville Brothers as well as South Africa's virtuoso, the late Miriam Makeba. 

Their albums, the 1990 debut The African Jazz Pioneers followed by Live at Montreaux (1991) and Sip 'n fly (1993) have been well received by growing audiences around the world.  The 1995 release of Shuffling Joe, brought the African Jazz Pioneers back into the limelight with a fresh new sound and a special tribute to the birth of the new South Africa, Viva Madiba. It seems incredible that the background to the African Jazz Pioneers stretches way back to the 50s when jazz was the in thing, and big bands were the name of the game.  It was at this time on any single day that one could bump into Dollar Brand, Kippie Moeketsi, Makeba, Dudu Pukwana, Hugh Masekela, Zakes Nkosi, Jonas Gwangwa and Piliso either at Dorkay House or in Sophiatown, the well-known melting pot of colour and culture. All that ended in the 60s when vibrant Sophiatown was demolished and some of these greats fled into exile.  This signified the end of the big bands at least until the early 80s when the Jazz Pioneers took a step out of the musical doldrums into Dorkay House and reformed with personnel including Piliso, Tim Ndaba, Wilson Silgee, Stompie Manana, and Shep Ntsamai.  The Pioneers were back on the road.  Hectic rehearsals were followed by their first gig at a church in Alexandra Township, playing numbers such as Tuxedo Junction and Hellfire.  Since that first gig in Alex, the Pioneers have evolved to a point where the invigorating performances have become famous at venues throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries. 
The Pioneers reach everybody in South Africa, from "high society" to liberation movements and political rallies, including several shows honouring Nelson Mandela. 

The inception and success of the African Jazz Pioneers has brought many inactive jazz giants from the big band era back on the performance trail.  As for the man from the mountain kingdom (Lesotho), Bhudaza, he was back in the country last year when he performed at the Millennium Jazz Restaurant.  Bhudaza introduced himself to the music world in a big way following the release of his acclaimed album, BoMaphefane in early 2000s. 

Moruakgomo is one of the local jazz giants, having released a number of albums.



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