South Africa had a thriving jazz scene in the first half of the 20th Century. However, with the formalization of the Apartheid system, the opportunities began to shrink. The official black radio stations were focused exclusively on "native" music, and the white musicians unions agitated to close down professional opportunities for African musicians.
Johnny Mbizo Dyani was one of several musicians who left their home behind to seek musical and political freedom abroad. He left South Africa when his group, the Blue Notes, played a gig at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1964.
In the next twenty years, Dyani played with a star-studded list of artists (see his bio on AllMusic.com
for at least a partial checklist) and led a number of his own groups. He died suddenly in 1986 at the Berlin Jazz Festival.
In a memorial
published in the South African magazine Rixaka
, Pallo Jordan writes, "above all, his music resounded with a joy in life." (A while back in a fit of compulsion, I stitched the scanned pages linked earlier into a single PDF
For this post, we have one track from Mbizo as a leader, and another from one of my all-time favorite of his collaboration gigs.
Johnny Dyani: "Blame It on the Boers"
(Buy "Afrika" from Amazon.com
or Dusty Groove
Joseph Jarman/Famoudou Don Moye/Johnny Dyani: "Ode to Wilbur Ware"
(you can buy "Black Paladins" from the Downtown Music Gallery
, but they don't have direct links; you'll have to use the search engine. Dusty Groove
doesn't have it in stock but will tell you when they do.)