To Breathe into Another Voice: A South African Anthology of Jazz Poetry

To Breathe into Another Voice: A South African Anthology of Jazz Poetry


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"Given South Africa’s venerable jazz tradition, it’s perhaps surprising it’s taken so long for more fundis to be tapped for their responses to our kind of jazz. But it takes a special brew of ingredients for this kind of book to come together. You need an inspired guiding spirit, such as editor and jazzwoman-in-words Myesha Jenkins, and you need a vat in which the ingredients can mix and bubble. You’ll find everything here in To breathe into another voice: faithful and fantastical accounts of the jazz life and jazz people as well as reflections on the music as a metaphor for how we live – or, maybe more importantly, how we’d like to live. All you need to do now is open the covers, start reading, and dance joyously about the architecture." —Gwen Ansel

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781928341314
Publisher: Real African Publishers
Publication date: 06/01/2018
Edition description: None
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

MoAfrika ’a Mokgathi is a poet, stage actress, playwright, saxophonist/ flautist (sometimes), award-winning radio presenter/producer, facilitator, businesswoman, event organizer … and she has many more skills in her talent hat. Ayanda Billie is a social critic, freelance writer and poet who published a poetry anthology in 2006, Avenues of my SoulGary Cummiskey lives in Johannesburg. He is the former editor of Dye Hard Press, which he started in 1994. He is the author of several poetry chapbooks, the most recent being Don’t Stop Until Incinerated (Tearoom Books, Stockholm, 2016). Dr Raphael d’Abdon was born in Italy and moved to South Africa in 2008. In 2013, he edited the collection Marikana. Sedica Davids believes the world is indeed round with wide-open spaces for the imagination. She believes that the life energy contained in each body is powerful beyond imagination. Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is the author of two collections of poetry and co-editor of No Serenity Here: An Anthology of African Poetry, which was translated into Mandarin. Diana Ferrus is a writer, poet, storyteller, and performer. She writes in both English and Afrikaans and has published two anthologies, one in Afrikaans (Ons Komvandaan); one in English (I’ve come to take you home).

Read an Excerpt


Power in the Music

'I'll never forget this moment.' How many times have you said that only to have the thought, the image, start to crack with time and eventually completely evaporate into a vague category in your brain called memory?

There are other times, though, when the memory is so much a part of who we are that it is impossible to forget. Memories mark the changes in our lives, sometimes reflecting the critical moments that bring us to adulthood. But it is more than a first kiss or a longed-for pair of shoes. The memory of the feeling becomes a part of any event.

There is pride in listening to our music when it means both our freedom and our power all at once, and the mythical mixes with the real in memories of home, our roots, and foundation. There are ways of being that mark us for our lifetimes: sharing in poverty, having neighbours who will take us in when the key is lost. To taste the smell of koeksisters on a Sunday morning immediately takes one home, back to loving hands, respectability.

Sometimes, those memories are of another's bravado, possibly fuelled by spirits of the liquid kind, remembering that time, remembering when you did the unbelievable ... and flew.

Specific places can return to mind years after they occurred, for the memory was of the colour of the flower in the garden, the depth of the discussion, the passion of the game.

A person, a place, an incident an idea ... whatever that memory is, it's special and strong enough to survive the millions of things we witness and experience in a lifetime. The memory that comes with jazz has a power to change our lives, if not the world.

On being a flower

They rehearsed in a forest in Angola We prepared in another, not too far When the forest carried the sounds to us Our guns clicked, as we retrained in preparation The sounds of music streamed through the forest As if they were playing only for me. I fully embraced Being a flower of the nation

— Makhosazana Xaba

For Bra Ntemi

Isn't sound continuity isn't sound memory loving care caress or rage sticking our shattered or scattered pieces together?

Marabi is a filthy memory Marabi is talent stomped in stokvel and smothered in skokiaan fumes Yet and still who would have been Mbaqanga's midwife?

Bra Ntemi what does a man bring to music? I wax back to the rebirth of our sound Willard Cele   They are zombies now whose dance does not go back to the birth of our new sound township passion screaming for space screaming for breath screaming for a moment of life raging and raving in the wilderness of our day

O, Bra Ntemi have you not paid your dues from Gallo to now!

— Keorapetse Kgositsile

Old Sof'town


In old Sof'town, the jazz struck chords,

the jazz lived, it exploded, out of the cramped homes, rolling along the streets, of old Kofifi,

in tune to countless blazing heartbeats.

In old Sof'town, Bra' Hugh breathed music, Sis' Dolly too, and Bra' Wally penned poems that still ring true.

In old Sof'town,

Father Trevor preached equality and justice, for all, black and white and brown, and all shades, every hue, even as oppression battered the people, black & blue.

In old Sof'town, the fires of resistance raged,

'we will not move' was the refrain,

even as the fascists tore down Sof'town, with volleys of leaden rain.

In old Sof'town, the people were herded,

like cattle, sent to Meadowlands, far away and cold and bleak, as the seeds of resistance, sprouted and flourished, for the coming battle.

In old Sof'town, the bulldozers razed homes, splitting the flesh of a community apart, only to raise a monument of shame, and 'Triomf' was its ghastly name.


In Jozi today, we remember those days, and those nights of pain, that stung our souls. like bleak winter rain.

Yes, we remember old Sof'town, as we struggle onward, to reclaim our deepest heritage, and build anew, a country of all hues and shades, of black and of white and of brown.

And yes, we will always remember,

and yes, we will never forget,

the price that was paid, by the valiant sons and daughters, of old Sof'town,

those vibrant African shades and hues,

of black, of white, of brown.

— Afzal Moolla

/// Dudu's Groove When Dudu played we forgot that we were in exile. Forgot even that who 'we' were was uneasily d e fined, amorphous. We were 'compatriots' from a country that had indoctrinated us with a profound sense of our s e p a rateness.

Paradoxically change ourselves. To repair our separated selves.

What we all had in common, regardless of hue, what we all shared – was an intense and unbearable nostalgia for a place that had never existed.

The nostalgia was, of course, a lie. Memory is always fiction. We invented home. We created a South Africa that had no basis in reality. No place could be that special. In fact the place we longed to go back to, that place we were all, to varying degrees, involved in fighting for, existed only in the music. With our eyes closed, listening intently, Dudu took us, his congregation, back home, back there. Back to a place that had never been and was never going to be. When Dudu played we forgot that he was in exile too. He invented South Africa. Concocted a sound that dematerialized the matter of separation that we had been given as fact and replaced it with a cacophonous way of staying alive. Perhaps the only way.

off the Richter scale. The band hurries to catch up with him but nobody has a chance of catching up with Pukwana's lava-like sheets of alto madness. There was something myth ic about them, something tragic too Dudu was playing outside of wasn't just a framework of chords and harmonies, he was outside of the entire notion of audience and perform er, the entire history of music as a commodity.

They sing of speaking who have never sung words; of dying whose lives are legends for their groove.

' ... and anyway, Ornette was in the room. Dudu said, at intermission, "There's Ornette!" Shouting. And you know Ornette is a shy guy, everybody turned around, the whole room, "There's Ornette! Where's your horn man? C'mon? Where's your horn? You are Ornette Coleman aren't you?" Damn, Dudu's running the Cape Town thing ... and Ornette was kind of panicking, Dudu: "Hey you are Ornette! C'mon, bring your horn, you are Ornette, ain't you?!" So we said, "Hey Dudu leave this guy, you are embarrassing this guy. He's Ornette!" And Dudu's saying it to us in Xhosa, "I'm gonna blow his head off. I've been waiting for this guy." That's what he said, "I've been waiting for you!" Now Dudu, he's into another level because Dudu now was also from the other generation from Nick (Moyake), like he was prepared. Now of course Ornette was checking us out, but he was putting us as Africans, it's-nice-to-see-you-guys kinda, they were doing that. It's strange because the Europeans would take us for real but the American black musicians would take us, "Oh yeah you Africans, how do you play this?" So Ornette had this attitude. So Dudu got mad, you know, I got mad also and Mongezi got mad. You know, this attitude!' — Johnny Mbizo Dyani, 23 December 1985.

At the end of the gig I go backstage and meet my guru. Dudu is mainly interested in finishing his bottle of vodka. There is no home left. There never was. Once you leave home you can never go back. You become an exile and exile becomes your only home. When Dudu played we forgot that we were in exile.

— Aryan KaganofWhere I'm From Van Duuren Street: An uphill stretch of old and new, Familiar, but not quite the same anymore.

This was home – with nippy mornings Filled with the aromas of shoe polish and mielie meal porridge And the sweet melodies from a gramophone.

Here were uncles and brothers, fathers and friends On corners and spaza shop verandas; And Coltrane and Armstrong jamming with Ernie Smith From generations of boom boxes.

In Van Duuren Street our bones grew to the major and minor scales Of toilet roll trumpets, plastic crate pianos and coffee tin drums, And Sundays we followed the brass band's tunes All around the church yard.

What do these new layers of bricks and fresh paint Know about the smell of homemade bread, Cinnamon koeksisters and vetkoek with jam; Where steamy kitchens were the breath needed For bugle horns and table tops provided a platform For Thelonious Monk to serve a feast for the ears?

Ah, Van Duuren Street: Where Oupa and his friends drank Old Brown Sherry With Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim in their cars, And wished the Alabama still had smoky nights with Their girls in red dresses swinging by the bandstand.

Old men wearing hats, mimicking those compositions – This was my Sophiatown, my District 6, My Bo Kaap, our new South End in the Northern suburbs, Where strings held us together and piano chords Gave us the keys to life.

It was groovy, where I'm from But not quite the same anymore.

— Selome 'Flow' PayneJazz club On Sunday afternoons Old men sit under a tree Listening to their music Laughing loudly Sipping brandy and coke Tapping their two-toned shoes Remembering dreams of Red dresses and flying brown legs.

— Myesha JenkinsThe Sounds of Exile When the frontier slashes like a blade Across the wrist of the soul (As some would call it Others, a Stygian hole out of which No light escapes) When, indeed, the sight of light Escaping through the crevices of mountain peaks In the early morning, the smell of wild lavender, The sound of goats bleating around the village, The roar of traffic, the weeping of saxophones In the city behind Have gone from the senses and remain only As the clattering of an old newsreel In your distant mind in a distant city Then pause to listen, to hold your palms up To the only wind that blows home for now From the dark clubs and lamplit stages Of London, Amsterdam, Gaborone For peace sake hear the breeze Blowing from the rumbling drums of Julian Bahula The trembling strings of Lucky Ranku Gusting us home from Amsterdam In the May of 1976 Come, let us go to Gaborone In that July of 1982 Surround ourselves With the nimble fingers, lithe lips Of Wilson 'Kingforce' Silgee, Denis Mpale Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela And with Abdullah Ibrahim, who said We don't think of ourselves as being in exile This is a strategic retreat And sang Thula, dubula No need to say much more It's all been said and tried before It's all over now but the dying And come once more down the Gaborone road To the Woodpecker on the banks of the Molopo River As we look across the frontier to home With the sounds of Bra Hugh, Bra Jonas, Steve Dyer Blowing behind us while the stones-throw enemy Listens Now, on the wind of jazz See the light defying gravity Escape from the darkened soul — Barry Gilder


This Thing Called Jazz Notes played in syncopation, rhythms of rebellion, love stories and hurricanes. It is the fusion of the newly freed slave, expressing their lives and the beats in the stories they brought with them. Quizlet defines jazz as: a type of music of black American origin characterized by improvisation, syncopation, and usually a regular or forceful rhythm, emerging at the beginning of the 20th century. Brass and woodwind instruments and piano are particularly associated with jazz, although guitar and occasionally violin are also used; styles include Dixieland, swing, bebop, and free jazz. Developing over time, that unformed cacophonous sound began to shape in in the hands of Black men Jelly Roll Morton, Earl Fatha Hines, Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. By the time it had found John Coltrane and Miles Davis, the music of the slave had crossed back across the Atlantic, making Latin jazz and re-formed as several kinds of African music from Afro-beat to smooth and finally back to free.

Like poetry, jazz has been called the music of the intellectual; the two genres share much more. Whether structured or free, the improvisation of jazz music and verse express dreams, rebellion, beauty, jubilation, fantasy, and the grit and grime of everyday living.

It sounds glib to say that jazz is everything, yet, all that can be conceived can be expressed in tonal and harmonic sounds: the words and emotions of jazz music.

1. Geography Flashcards, Quizlet. Available at Accessed May 2017.

Untitled The gift of life regular/distorted notes dissonance/harmony and all that jazz.

— Connie FickNoted Skipping, the spaced notes hit home In the interstices of life The distance between a dendron and its covering Is miniscule The space A note occupies Its tone, pitch Trebled in sonority Or bassed down To ground zero Warbled and massaged Troped and fluted Is huge It flirts and plays Or wakes ancient Messaging As brain stem signals And sound penetrates Membranes merge with transmitters Transforming the composition of cells Jazzed memories Jaded dreams And muted musings Are all cached Where missing a beat Makes music — Sedica DavidsFor Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers For the sound we revere we dub you art as continuum as spirit as sound of depth here to stay In my young years I heard you bopping and weaving messages I could only walk to where wood mates with skin I would have dubbed you godhead but your sound rolled and pealed: I am the drumhead even though Blue Note don't care nothin bout nothin but profit How you sound is who you are where your ear leans moaning and bopping from the amen corner of chicken and dumpling memories and places In my young years I would have dubbed you something strange as god of opiate heaven of brutal contact of bible and rifle memories but the drumhead rolled my name How you sound is who you are like drumsound backing back to root roosting at the meeting place the time that has always been here even here where wood mates with skin on wax to make memory to place us even in this hideous place p-p-pounding p-p-pounding the s-s-ssounds of who we are even in this place of strange and brutal design.

— Keorapetse KgositsileRainjazz on the Dune it improvises something on the sundeck's keyboard : fingertip acumen stippled pitch of melody across a riff of groaning surf hump: gather: collapse intones the sea daring this lightest of all drizzled traces to make itself heard above the roar to shape itself seen for this is music of flesh, of eyes glancing across dancing across surfaces touching heart by way of marrow, of nerve fondling a world awake and crying out Yes!

Yes! Yes!

and now over the dune knysna lourie forest weaver: hadeda winging it winging it single car hissing down the far road ringing of tyres on metal grid and now the breakers now the mist now day and evening smoke and mirrors yes and no and no and yes and now a now a now a (then) ...?

— Harry OwenApplauding the New or Responding to the Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O The Leader can follow Rhythm slows and speeds Sometimes there is silence Unstructured but not discordant or free A bass solo before we know the melody Musicians can rotate on the instruments (You play mine, I'll play yours) Inspired by ritual, repetition, chant Elemental Multiple notes played simultaneously Build on layers of sound, diminish to a note Not always solid Must be seen — Myesha JenkinsJazz This is jazz Simple yet mystical It's the jazz of my childhood The razzmatazz of wonder It's the bewilderment of adolescence The unfathomability of ecstasy It's the cadence of youth Conjuring passion amidst chaos This is the jazz of womanhood Deep & mellow against the wall of certainty This is the jazz of middle age Always piecing together like a quilt Colours, shapes, positions, meeting points This is my jazz — Makhosazana XabaA life in pieces

— Ayanda BillieSwing in D minor Miners Swing The response, A bloody Bebop Black Bodies drop To a new Deadly rhythm Machine gun Jazz Bullets Scat singing, Through the Muthi.

Eating into flesh and bone Life dances its way out of broken bodies A live rendition of death in song That bad Jazz.

A bloody Bebop.

That murderous Marikana Swing A song pasted into memory A song we hate.

That bad Jazz — Richard Quaz Roodtjazznight / improvisations / urban vibes inside, yellow & blue showlights splash a deep red mood on stems of chrome swollen clots of bass electrify the floor strips of memories, plucked from faces & braided by saxophone that works like a needle 'faces and places', a maestro called sipho yells, and then the burning phrases of 'gugulethu story' bursts of feeling served up with plates of eyes — Frank MeintjiesGenesis Marimba sprawled her keys making ripples in our origins She swung her golden axe into the tree of life carving double bass and drums from the ribs of angels she fashioned the birds harmonically kissing their beaks to soothe their tune freeing their wings to ascend onto us songs of enchantment — Kabelo MofokengNostalgic Jazz Jesus, jazz is us!

Playing a colony of melancholy We pass through memories On tapestries of sax, ears climax to the melodies And we remember this Basslines that echo our bloodline Flows like Nile We soak in the drum and mime the sound of soil Even monologues dry We improvise dialogues, composing prayer


Excerpted from "To Breathe into Another Voice"
by .
Copyright © 2017 All the listed poets.
Excerpted by permission of Real African Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface 10

1 Power in the Music 15

On being a flower Makhosazana Xaba 17

For Bra Ntemi Keorapetse Kgositsile 18

Old Sof'town Afzal Moolla 19

Dudu's Groove Aryan Kaganof 22

Where I'm From Selome 'Flow' Payne 24

Jazz Club Myesha Jenkins 25

The Sounds of Exile Barry Gilder 26

2 This Thing Called Jazz 29

Untitled Connie Pick 31

Noted Sedica Davids 32

For Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Keorapetse Kgositsile 33

Rainjazz on the Dune Harry Owen 35

Applauding the New Myesha Jenkins 36

Jazz Makhosazana Xaba 37

A life in pieces Ayanda Billie 38

Swing in D minor Richard Quaz Roodt 39

Jazznight / improvisations / urban vibes Frank Meintjies 40

Genesis Kabelo Mofokeng 41

Nostalgic Jazz Xitha Makgeta 42

My Grandmother's Hymn Mthunzikazi Mbugwana 43

Mercury / quicksilver Bernadette Muthien 44

Self-Medication Richard Quaz Roodt 45

3 They Make the Music 47

Brass Xabiso Vili 49

The now generation MoAfrika 'a Mokgathi 51

Coming out of the closet Connie Fick 53

Arid Vangi Gantsho 54

Presence of a Master Myesha Jenkins 55

Them Jazz Cats MoAfrika 'a Mokgathi 56

Hey music man Natalia Molebatsi 57

Elegy for Jazz Phillippa Yaa de Villiers 58

For Gloria Bosman Keorapetse Kgositsile 59

4 Some of Them Were Special 61

Bheki mseleku remembered Eugene Skeef 63

Songbird Traveller Lebo Mashile 64

Home Tones Malika Ndlovu 66

A poem for Lesedi Percy Mabandu 68

In Gentle Light and Heavy Tones LeratoRato Kuzwayo 69

Acknowledgement Keorapetse Kgositsile 70

A Love Supreme Mphutlane wa Bofelo 71

Coltrane's Lap Steve Kwena Mokwena 72

Playing to the Wall John Forbis 73

This Blues Thing Is Us: Ke Kgale Re Tshwenyeha Mphutlane wa Bofelo 75

Miles John Forbis 77

So That Light Would Be There Ayanda Billie 78

Portrait of a Cow Percy Mabandu 79

Mr FunkDaddy LeratoRato Kuzwayo 80

Voice Frank Meintjies 81

Abdullah's Top To Bottom Dollar Allan Kolski Horwitz 83

Memory of Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Connie Fick 85

Sikade LeratoRato Kuzwayo 86

Tribute to Zim Ngqawana Zaheer Karolia 87

Is it jazz? Roux Wessels 89

Kippies Steve Kwena Mokwena 90

Horn Screaming Ayanda Billie 91

Zimasile Frank Meintjies 92

Ways of being free 94

1 Steve Newman

2 Andile Yenana

3 Yonela Mnana Phillippa Yaa De Villiers

Your song Natalia Molebatsi 96

Double shot Richard Quaz Roodt 97

5 All About Living 99

Rhythm and blues Nolene Morris 101

Sax seduction Lamelle Shaw 102

Memories of Mannenberg Makhosazana Xaba 104

@ Sam's Tavern Icebound Makhele 105

At the jazz club Raphael D'Abdon 107

It's all that Jazz Mandy Poetician Ndaliso 109

Thirsty waters Lati Matjeni 110

I wish I had known Bob Kaufman Gary Cummiskey 111

Song Koleka Putuma 112

Ek Verlang na Jazz 114

I Miss Jazz (English) Diana Ferrus 115

I Am In A Jam Derrick Newson 116

The day you left Vangi Gantsho 117

Endless Highway Myesha Jenkins 118

If only Siza Nkosi 119

A Lesson in Poetry Women and Jazz Men Lebohang Nova Masango 120

That Tune MoAfrika 'a Mokgathi 123

mZANTSI LeTS dANCE Linda Ndlovu 124

There is a train Makhosazana Xaba 125

Cassandra Wilson will Sing Keoropetse Kgositsile 126

Instrumental Harry Owen 127

Giving in Sarah Godsell 128

Contributors 131

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