The untold stories of veteran jazz musicians in Komani will form part of a heritage research project facilitated by the International Library of African Music (ILAM) at Rhodes University.
Researcher from the institution, Thobeka Ndlebe September, said with assistance from the Mlungisi Music and Arts Academy, the project was about archiving and conducting research on the little jazz town of Komani history, dating back to jazz in the 1940s.
“We are interested in the narratives of jazz veterans, the untold stories of that era and how that influenced generations who then carried the baton. The story is basically in three parts. We are looking at the memories, how the music developed and has influenced society. One of the key issues about this research is that legends have passed on with all this rich history. Have we really written enough to save this literature for generations to come? ILAM has identified that gap and we are trying to narrow it to ensure we have literature that represents our own musicians, especially in the Eastern Cape.”
She said SA jazz was often associated with big cities, indicating that most of these jazz legends hailed from the Eastern Cape. “We need those stories to empower the current and future generations to know where we come from as people in jazz. We hope, as ILAM, that students who study music can learn more about township jazz. We are decolonising the music by looking at a different perspective, by digging down into memories and bringing back music to the people.”
Jazz maestro Mlungisi Gegana of the Mlungisi Music and Arts Academy and members of the Sounds and Rhythms Music Association welcomed the percussion instruments, books and pennywhistles donated by the institution. He said a concert to help revive jazz in Komani was scheduled to take place around October.
As interested parties in the history and development of music, Gegana said an association that spoke to the rights of musicians was formed last year. The objective was, among others, to promote community participation in the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of the workshops, documentation and teaching of the rich heritage of South African music.