Jazz music of the 1920-1950’s was a central feature in the urban culture of South Africa. This kind of music developed specifically in Johannesburg and a place called Sophiatown. It took root here due to the increasing urbanization of black South Africans in mining centers. This led to the development of slum yards and ghettos where new forms of cross music began to arise. Marabi, the type of music formed, was founded in a time of disparity in South Africa so it became a form of resistance as well as a symbol of the culture. This was very important to the black society because not only did they have their very own music, but it also acted out against the white oppressors which gave them ...view middle of the document...
The lure towards illegal activities wasn’t the only comparison between South African and American music, though. South African music also portrayed American swing groups that were popping up in the south. As oppression began to worsen, the slum yards began to be removed in the early 1930s. The music scene began to shift towards places like Sophiatown.
Merry Blackbirds and Other Popular Bands
With the change of location, Shebeens and dance-parties continued, however the type of music being played started to evolve. Through radio, black musicians in South Africa were able to hear the music of famous artists such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and many more which produced a strong impact on what was played in the townships. Township music was quickly being influenced by American swing and American cinema. Therefore, South African township music took on swing improvisations. Local groups began performing American swing by blending their sound with the American style. This type of music began to appear in South Africa in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s and added to their distinct South African style.
With their diverse style of music, bands gained significant attention and popularity in the 1930’s and 1940’s. These bands were the ones to produce the first generation of professional black musicians coming out of South Africa. Star groups such as The Jazz Maniacs and the Merry Blackbirds paved their way to fame, winning huge audiences among both black and white South Africans. However, the high point of Marabi culture came with the emergence of the Jazz Maniacs, founded by Solomon 'Zuluboy' Cele in 1935, together with Wilson 'Kingforce' Silgee. Following this breakthrough, the Jazz Maniacs, Pitch Black Follies, and the Merry Blackbirds began to front their bands with female vocalists. Adding a sense of diversity to their group as well as showing support to women. It was in this way that Hope Khumalo, Emily Motsiela, and Miriam Makeba started to gain their reputations.
Through furthering development of the entertainment field, continued support and interaction between bands like the Merry Blackbirds and their fans continued. Even though recordings could have helped them gain a wider fan base, it was the lack in recordings that encouraged audiences to come out and listen in hopes of catching the latest disc of their favorite groups. As live performances grew in popularity, the Merry Blackbirds and others were able to keep their membership and high status for many years.
Through their progressing reputation, these groups became very successful. So successful, that jealous white musicians started to use the regulations against racial mixing and the liquor laws (which restricted black access to "white" liquor) to hamper their progress. By using law to impede on music making, legislation started to play a role. Politics now invaded music and music in turn welcomed politics because it could now use it to amplify the struggle and fight back. The...