February 2016 theme: Jazz in Africa

Like reggae or hip-hop, jazz is one of the few musical genres with a truly global reach. Although believed to have originated in the USA in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the genre’s roots stretch back further, to the African continent itself. Today, while often considered an exclusive or elitist genre, jazz nevertheless remains one of the longest-lasting popular genres - in Africa as well as the rest of the world. From South America to the Far East, it is the genre of choice for many of the world’s most talented artists.

Ezra Ngcukana (tenor sax) and Wesley Rustin (bass) in Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa in 2010. Photo: John Edwin Mason
Ezra Ngcukana (tenor sax) and Wesley Rustin (bass) in Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa in 2010. Photo: John Edwin Mason

Today many of Africa’s leading music festivals showcase jazz in particular. These include Jazzablanca in Morocco, Madajazzcar in Madagascar, Jazz Kif in DR Congo, the Saint Louis international Jazz Festival in Senegal and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in South Africa. Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa have proud jazz traditions dating back several decades, while in recent years other countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have also started promoting the genre with regular events for a growing fan-base of jazz enthusiasts.

Due to the importance of this often overlooked genre, we have chosen Jazz as our theme for the month of February 2016. We have commissioned overview texts covering the jazz scenes in numerous African countries (with many more still to come), complemented here by various reviews, features and news – essential reading for anyone interested in this timeless genres.

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