These Are The Maestros Who Jazz Up Africa

When you talk of jazz to most people they think you are slowly losing it but what is surprising is that there are a lot of Africans who listen to jazz now more than before. Be it in high end bars and restaurants or in concerts. Did you know that jazz actually originated from right here in Africa and propagated mostly by those who were taken into slavery? It is more like Negro spirituals with more emotion manifesting itself in the major and minor notes. This way, jazz has woven itself into the lives of those who it surrounds. The Pan-African spirit, through jazz, has spread across the world and more whites are indulging in it and giving us a run for our money. Literally and otherwise. 

For a while now Safaricom has been promoting the jazz spirit in Kenya by hosting legendary jazz artistes who have been taking their audience by storm every single time like it is the first time. Afro-jazz has its roots in South Africa where evidently most of the legendary artistes originate. Here is a list of the top 5 African jazz artistes who through time, have been given global accolades. The list is not in any particular order because they are all masters in their own right.

Jonathan Butler:

Butler is a renowned musician and songwriter who started early at the age of seven. He started off with his brothers and sang from one band to the next until he eventually formed his own and dubbed it ‘The Butler’. He rocks the Rhythm guitar among other instruments and since the apartheid in the 60’s, he has been a prolific jazz artiste with accolades from the world over. He recently graced the Safaricom Jazz Festival in Kenya and the crowd was nothing short of grateful. He can do more than sing and play musical instruments and has inspired more to join the jazz bandwagon and even more to fall in love with the genre at first listen.

Hugh Masekela:

 Hugh Masekela can be easily proclaimed the father of jazz in South Africa and also the icon of the Pan-African movement though his music. He went to exile in the USA where he joined Manhattan School of Music. His passion led him to meet highly profiled jazz artiste Louis Armstrong. Hugh attributes his success to his father, Trevor Huddleston, who made him learn an instrument at 14 and built up his career since then. Now, he is a flugelhornist, trumpeter, song writer and singer and even at 77, he still rocks hard with the highlight of his career being his opening act for the World Cup in 2010 in Soweto’s Soccer City. This jazz maestro has over 40 albums to his name through his over 5 decade long career.

Kunle Ayo:

 While most Nigerians delve into dancehall and afro pop, Kunle Ayo has immersed himself deep into jazz owing to his 7 year long sojourn in South Africa. He has his crowd of the ‘who’s who’ behind him back home in Nigeria and across the world as well. The Kora award winner has made very huge strides in the industry and has released 5 albums between 2002 and 2011. He says that the main reason for his success during live performances is that he doesn’t play for the people but with the people. His philosophy has worked well for him so far and he has a Channel O award to add to the Kora and has performed in a host of other international jazz concerts across Africa as well as worldwide.

Isaiah Katumwa:


Jazz is more of a fast growing ‘secret society’ in Uganda thanks to Isaiah Katumwa. Much like Kunle, he has encountered some difficulty in penetrating his local market. Gradually though, most people are converting to listening to and appreciating jazz thanks to him. Katumwa is self-made and describes jazz to be African, smooth and divine hence his gospel twist. He has an album for every year from 2001 to 2011 except 2008. He has been hosted at the BBC and now he has his own show on Urban Tv, Uganda, called Jazz with Isaiah. Besides performing for over 20 presidents across the continent and endorsing a saxophone made by C. E. Winds based in Florida, he also inspires young talent and promotes the spirit of jazz across Africa.

Jimmy Dludlu:


Dludlu is a high profile Jazz guitarist who hails from Mozambique. He is popular across Africa in the jazz circles and has done well for himself with his performances in international arenas across the continent and the world over. He was named Best Newcomer with the Best Contemporary Jazz album by FNB SAMA (South African Music Awards) in 1998. He has also been crowned Best Male Artiste, won the Best Jazz Album (Tonota) and Best contemporary Jazz album (Essence of Rhythm) between 2000 and 2012 in the same awards.

These are some of the great jazz ambassadors and maestros who have helped inspire, grow and shape the jazz music scene in Africa. More talent and exceptional musicians are out there and we at Ngoma celebrate all of them. Keep jazzing up Africa and the world is your stage.

SOURCE: March 31st 2016


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