Johannesburg Jazz Legends

Johannesburg is known as the hub of South African Jazz: it lives and breathes the soulful, vibrant culture of this music genre. Historically, South African Jazz emerged from the townships in Joburg - Sophiatown was the breeding ground for experimental African sounds fused with swanking Western Jazz beats. 

©Dr Peter Magubane
The Soweto String Quartet, a popular jazz band from Johannesburg, at an initimate perfomance.

Marabi and Mbaqanga Jazz found its roots in the townships as well, creating a sound that formed SA Jazz as we know it. Johannesburg embodied the struggling musician of colour during the apartheid years. The life of a black jazz musician was not easy; artists faced many challenges as they struggled for liberation and for their voices to be heard.

The Johannesburg Jazz artists of the late 1940’s to 1980’s knew they had a responsibility to ensure their music had longevity, and that the township music culture would continue to grow and thrive.

Joburg is where rich African rhythms, township jives and blues instrumentals met to develop into a flavourful mix of traditional and Western-inspired Jazz. Johannesburg boasts an array of successful jazz musicians that are not only local legends, but international stars as well.

Legendary jazz performers such as the late Hugh Masekela, Barney Rachabane and Kippie Moeketsi hail from Joburg, as well as bands like The Manhattan Brothers and The Skylarks. Joburg is also known for its swanky jazz clubs, including the famous Orbit Jazz Club.

The city continues to produce unique jazz artists with South African flavour and soul weaved into their music. South Africa Online ® aims to showcase these legendary and contemporary jazz musicians, highlighting their vibrant and colourful music indigenous to the City of Gold.

By Carla Lottering

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