Umhlaba Wethu: landscape in the Eastern Cape jazz imaginary

Jonathan Edward Eato, Lindelwa Dalamba

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


We all exist in a physical relationship with landscapes. We move through them constantly: adapting, destroying, working, leaving, and returning to them.

However much of our movement through landscapes is imaginary. We divide, reclaim, describe, and variously evoke them, so that the spaces we inhabit gradually organize themselves into our landscapes. As Janowski and Ingold (2012) put it:

"Landscapes are 'imagined' in a sense more fundamental than their symbolic representation in words, images and other media. Less a means of conjuring up images of what is 'out there' than a way of living creatively in the world, imagination is immanent in perception itself."

The ways in which we move through and create landscapes are an important part of who, and how, we are able to be. As this involves so much physical and imaginative motion, it is perhaps surprising that our jazz landscapes can seem peculiarly static in their tellings; the modern city seems firmly entrenched in jazz and vice versa.

The jazz-city dyad certainly resonates clearly in the historiography of South African jazz, and various novelists, poets, journalists and musicians have maintained this sounding. Indeed, this duality is one thing that separates jazz from other neo-traditional musics in South Africa, e.g. maskanda where migrancy, and movement between town and country, are paramount for the very development of the style.

Although it can seem that once South African jazz musicians arrived at a metropolis they stayed put, we would like to argue that this understanding is overly reductive and lacks the depth of perspective that musicians have constructed into South African jazz landscapes. Our focus for this paper will be Eastern Cape jazz that confounds simple urban rural-divides and captures musicians’ various movements through their landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013
EventHearing Landscape Critically: Music, Place, and the Spaces of Sound - Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Duration: 9 Sep 201311 Sep 2013


ConferenceHearing Landscape Critically: Music, Place, and the Spaces of Sound
Country/TerritorySouth Africa

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