Celebrate Heritage Month by exploring the Xhosa jazz tradition

sisgwenjazz

Spring and Heritage Month have arrived, so prepare for a flood of events linked to whatever the organisers think they can market as heritage. Sometimes this is done thoughtfully and creatively; sometimes it’s merely an opportunistic, apartheid-style, reification of “tribe”.

Rereading a 20-year-old interview I’d conducted with the late Bheki Mseleku, I came across his iconoclastic question: “If I’m abroad and I hear people talking Zulu, it draws me to talk – but then comes the question: what are we going to talk about?”

How you grew up, and the community you grew up with, form part of everybody’s identity – but only a part, and not one automatically exempt from questions. Culture changes. In South Africa, much now set in stone was actually very selectively re-designed by the colonialists for the purposes of social control: foregrounding authoritarian, patriarchal and often antagonistic relationships between people. Read Govan Mbeki if you…

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