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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Joburg jazz: The new world music
South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela has helped popularise African jazz
Aficionados of the South African jazz scene have said their latest music will shake up the international music scene. They told BBC World Service how they identified a gap in the market for their new urban groove.

The world music scene is looking for a new sound.

"The pressure is on, the world music market is pretty stagnant and everybody is trying to maximise sales by focusing on rock and pop," Damon Forbes, of Sheer Sound, told BBC World Service's Jazzmatazz programme.

The record company founder said Johannesburg jazz will be the new beat to kick-start the international music scene.

"We are feeding jazz products through and we will get international distribution," he asserted.

Selaelo Selota
Selaelo Selota now plays his own style of jazz
Heralding the new urban groove, one performer told the BBC how Joburg jazz is more experimental and diverse than the accomplished sound of Afro jazz.

"Cape Town jazz seems to me to be more about American traditions, whereas Johannesburg is about African and South African tradition," pianist Paul Hanmer said.

"Cape Town is less about experiment, renewal and new discovery. Johannesburg is about these things - in fact we are making a new urban tradition by being able to mix influences from across South Africa."

Having identified a gap in the music market, Sheer Sound and other larger labels such as BMG, have been working to ensure that artists including trumpeter Marcus Wyatt and vocalist Judith Sephuma, now reach a global audience.

This music is an education

Sheer Sound
"This music is an education," a Sheer Sound employee explained. "It makes you want to dance and as an African I can relate to it, it really talks to me. The artists really have rhythm."

The success of artists such as Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim has meant that South African jazz is by no means a new phenomenon.

But as one performer explained, in the past often the music has been made with the specific needs of an audience in mind.

"My record contract says 'we will market you in Southern Africa'," said jazz musician Selaelo Selota.


"It is very much Western dominated, so I made records a bit broad to accommodate some Western influences, just to sell a few records."

But on his latest album, Enchanted Gardens, he reverted to his true style.

"I wanted this album to be the one where I asserted my voice," he recently said.

"I maintained and took the standard further by solidifying my statement as a musician and my own voice and style."

Getting heard

But although the songs are being sung, getting them heard can often prove difficult.

Increasing radio airplay is one popular way of raising a performer's profile both locally and overseas.

In Johannesburg, government quotas are already in place to ensure that 40% of South African independent radio stations' playlists include local music.

But as one local DJ explained, such is the local love of the music that even without the guidelines, his station would fill the airwaves with the sound of Johannesburg jazz.

"The quotas are not specific on the genre," he said. "It is local sound across the board and even if they were to move it to 50% of our play list, Kaya FM would stretch to the limit."

BBC World Service's Jazzmatazz
"It makes you want to dance"
See also:

15 Jan 02 | Music
Ibrahim: Ambassador for harmony
06 Apr 01 | Music
Stars to celebrate South Africa
13 Feb 02 | Music
Pine turns jazz ambassador
29 Jan 02 | Music
World music celebrates its best
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