Before he finished his speech by telling graduates to go out there and “kick some booty”, the late, great Hugh Masekela had plenty to say. The jazz giant was being awarded an honourary Doctorate of Music by Wits University and he said a few words about literature.
He said: “We have long relegated our magnificent vernacular literature to the dust and insect-infested floors of crumbling old warehouses in favour of imported writings, hip hop, rap and other forms of trending fashions that distance us as far as possible from our rich traditional legacy.
“We need to study, learn, and teach our traditional music, dance, oral literature and more in our own academies and future educational institutions, where we can revive and redevelop what has been lost from the positive content of our glorious history, without abandoning the best of what the West has brought to our otherwise void-encrusted lives.”
Now, Nandi Molefe has written a book that aims to help music lovers and academics alike to study and learn about one of the most prolific groups of all South African music.
Comprising Kippie Moeketsi, Johnny Gertze, Early Mabuza, Makaya Ntshoko as well as Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Ibrahim, the group was called the Jazz Epistles and they were the first black group to record an LP in this country. They split up in 1960.
Molefe’s book is called Jazz Epistles: The Living History. The idea was sparked by an epic reunion of Masekela, Gwangwa and Ibrahim for a sold-out concert in 2016. Tonight, Jazz Epistles: The Living History will be launched in Gauteng by Touch HD, as well as the minister of arts and culture, Nathi Mthethwa.
The book is a part of the Living Legend series spearheaded by the Department of Arts and Culture in an effort to keep our artist heroes within the collective consciousness of the country.
The former Mayor of Ekurhuleni, Mondli Gungubele, contributed an introduction, while the foreword was written by Mthethwa.
He said: “It is important to share with younger generations the life stories and narratives of our legends and their immense contribution to our freedom.
“Our current musical culture has been shaped by these three musical maestros and other legends.
“Their music and contribution resonate with us, but has also found eager audiences on the stages of the world.”
About writing the book, Molefe said: “Young South African artists need to know that their jazz forefathers shook the world with their raw South African sound. These jazz legends broke down the doors of the Grammys, Hollywood, concert halls and international royal houses. The story of The Jazz Epistles: The Living History is a privilege to share.”
* Jazz Epistles: The Living History will be launched tomorrow and will be available at book stores.