Township Comets: the impact of South African jazz on the UK scene

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


That South African jazz musicians have been heavily influenced by musicians from the United States is both understandable and well understood. Various scholars including Ansell (2004), Ballantine (1993), Coplan (2007), Erlman (1991), and Martin (1999), have traced the early history of this influence on urban black South African music to visits by minstrel troupes and jubilee singers in the late nineteenth century.

Ballantine (1993) informs us that in the mid twentieth century the influence continued to be important and, on occasion, it was made overt by groups with names such as the African Inkspots and the Manhattan Brothers doing ‘superb imitations’ of the Inkspots and the Mills Brothers.

Indeed artists continued to acknowledge their influences throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century; Chris McGregor’s ‘Sweet As Honey’ (recorded in 1988) was dedicated to Thelonious Monk and featured a typically Monk-esque harmonic sequence, whilst Winston Mankunku’s debt to John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter can be found in more than just the title of ‘Dedication’ (2003).

But as more and more South African jazz artists sought refuge from the brutal politics at home they travelled and practiced their music overseas, notably in England (Bahula, Dyani, Feza, Matthews, McGregor, Moholo, Mothle, Pukwana, Ranku, Saul), The Netherlands (Bergin), Switzerland (Ntshoko), France (McGregor), the United States (Gwangwa, Ibrahim, Makeba, Masekela) and Scandinavia (Dyani).

Drawing on personal interviews and recorded music, this paper traces the influence of the exiled South African musicians on UK musicians and their music.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2011
Event16th Biennial IASPM conference 'Situating Popular Musics' - Grahamstown, South Africa
Duration: 27 Jun 20111 Jul 2011


Conference16th Biennial IASPM conference 'Situating Popular Musics'
Country/TerritorySouth Africa

Cite this