Jazz Against Apartheid (JAA) was started in 1986 in Berlin by Ju¨rgen Leinhos, now 85 years old, and his Frankfurt-based initiative “Kultur im Ghetto” (Culture in the Ghetto). The first event included musical specialists from the UK, Switzerland and the EU, particularly Germany, joining together in honouring Johnny with the performance of Dyani compositions. Following Dyani’s passing in exile, the JAA performing collaboration has continued with regular concerts in Europe and the USA. In 2021 President Ramaphosa bestowed the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in silver on Mr Leinhos for his commitment to the JAA programme, for his determined stand against apartheid, and for fighting for the cause of oppressed South Africans as an anti-apartheid activist.
Now in its 38th consecutive year, and its second year performing in South Africa, Jazz Against Apartheid have performed over 100 concerts on three continents and visits Johannesburg for the first time. The JAA movement is integrated with cultural activism. Every concert features the compositions of Eastern Cape born bass player, composer and ANC member in exile Johnny Mbizo Dyani.
Born in Duncan Village, East London, Johnny Dyani went into exile at the age of 17 with the famous Blue Notes. His globally acknowledged contribution to jazz is remarkable from three perspectives:· his prolific and collaborative career which illustrates the unity in diversity that is achieved through music;· his compositions and albums, that brought international attention to the lives of struggle icons such as Steve Biko, Lillian Ngoyi, and Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and· he demonstrated that the source of jazz was on the African continent.
Sharing the vitality of Dyani’s music to current and future generation, fills the gaps in cultural memory of what artists such as Dyani fought for and achieved abroad. Like those back home in South Africa who were fighting on every front to free themselves from apartheid, thes exiled artists worked in solidarity “for my country, for my people,” as Dyani put it.The JAA event continues the friendships built in exile, in a kind of “künstlerisch-kultureller Austausch” (artistic-cultural exchange) and is a bridge between geography and history.
This event returns to the Eastern Cape due to the enthusiasm and support of activists and South African living in exile in Germany, Professor Peggy Luswazi and Vusi Macingwane Mchunu. These South Africans in exile enjoyed a direct interaction with the Jazz Against Apartheid project during the many active years of study and work in Berlin, at the peak of the antiapartheid struggle. The driving force of this cultural exchange is “Nachwuchsförderung,” or the conscious policy and practice of transferring societal values, knowledge and skills to the next generation. As Ju¨rgen Leinhos said recently, noting that South African political apartheid is dead but that the struggle continues: “Overcoming apartheid does not stop once apartheid – being in this case the name and definition of a political system – stops. Since the isolation of political voices and groups that took place not only from the political process, but from education, health care, and other social needs, has not stopped, JAA continues to have legitimacy and a reason to exist.”
At the 13 December event, additionally, the Johnny Dyani Songbook Launch will take place. This anthology of compositions by Johnny Mbizo Dyani is the first such anthology of transcribed compositions from a South African Jazz Composer. It has been hailed as the breakthrough work for bringing local music education into South African educational institutions. The anthology has been produced by Jazz Against Apartheid Collaborations under the authorship of Artistic Director Daniel Guggenheim.