Jonas Gwangwa: Musician And Cultural Activist

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In 1989 South African jazz composer and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa used the opportunity of an internationally televised interview,1 on the occasion of the Grammy awards in the United States, to declare on behalf of the leadership of a then exiled African National Congress (ANC): ‘I serve the people of South Africa under the leadership of the African National Congress. These nominations and awards are also recognition of our people's struggles and liberation' (Sowetan 12-08-92). Gwangwa had received a nomination for a Grammy for the song ‘Cry Freedom' in the category ‘Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture', and two nominations for an Oscar (USA): one for ‘Best Music, Original Score', and one for ‘Best Music, Original Song'. He received further nominations for the category ‘Best Film Score' in Golden Globes (USA), BAFTA (UK), Ivor Novello (UK), and Anthony Askwith Award (UK), and an ‘Award of Recognition' from Friends of the Black Emmys (USA). All these accolades were for the film Cry Freedom!2 They may well have given Gwangwa an opportunity to further his international career, especially in the United States,3 but at that time he chose to continue working for the ANC and to find his expression by using music politically rather than in commercial music circles. As Caiphus Semenya puts it: ‘there is another side to Jonas … he is extremely politically conscious … his music craft and his political craft are intertwined' (Author's interview, 2003). South African Music Studies Vol. 26-27 2006/7: pp. 47-70

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... Recognising that "aspects of performance (…) are integrally both social and individual" (135), Layne chronicles the musical life of Jimmy Adams, a pioneering bandleader who "sought to blend American swing and African jazz (…) with traditional Coloured dance music" (132) . 1 For Layne, Adams' work appeared to "prefigure the successes of the jazz aesthetes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some of whom developed from being local Cape musicians to innovators of a broader South African jazz idiom" (ibid .) . 2 As Layne explains, "biography can serve a valuable function in reconstructing the specific history of performance since it depicts relationships between broader social change and individual agency" (132-3) . Layne's study is thus significant for drawing attention to the historical importance of lesser-known South African musicians, and for being the first to adopt an epistemological framework that increasingly informs scholarly writing about South African jazz (Szymczak 2006;Dlamini 2010:41-62;Muller and Benjamin 2011;Martin 2013:187-266) . ...
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