South African Jazz from the 1940s -1950s | Miriam Makeba / The African Ink Spots / Manhattan Brothers / Drum magazine

Drum magazine, 1955                                                                                                     Drum magazine, 1956


Apartheid was an inescapable fact of daily life in 1950s South Africa. But when the staff of Drum magazine got 
to the Johannesburg offices, the feeling was of having ‘‘walked into a different world, a world outside South Africa,’’ 
says Jürgen Schadeberg, the art director there in the 1950s. Inspired by the American magazines Life and Look, 
Drum’s documentary portrayals of black urban life, arts, politics and culture were revolutionary. (...)


Drum magazine, 1955                                                                                                           Drum magazine, 1957  
Miriam Makeba posing for Drum Cover, 1955

Miriam Makeba & The Manhattan Brothers - Lovely Lies, 1956        Miriam Makeba  &The Skylarks - Holilili, 1950 
Jürgen Schadeberg, Township Shuffle, Sophiatown, 1955
The Three Jazzolomos, 1953

The African Ink Spots - I'm Jealous Of You, 1948                              Manhattan Brothers - Pesheya' Kwezo Ntaba, 1948

Kids jamming in the streets of Sophiatown, Johannesburg
Dancing to marabi in 1950s Johannesburg

Marabi was the first form of jazz native to South Africa, possibly named after the Pretoria town, 
Marabastad. Marabi is characterised by piano jazz and flourished in the Sophiatown era, where 
it was played in shebeens and dance halls.

The Marabi subculture stood in stark contrast to the values of the so-called oppressed elite
of South Africa, the African middle-level population with mostly missionary educational
background. They criticized the Marabi and the jazz imported at the same time from America
 for their proximity to crime and for their non-Christian values, in the process coming into conflict
 with the main mediators of music, namely music teachers. These taught their students more and
more American jazz hits, which were perceived as modern. Well-known African intellectuals
spoke out against the phenomenon of Marabi and promoted the choral tradition of South
Africa supported by the missions.(...)

Jürgen Schadeberg, Sophiatown, 1955
Peter Magubane, Nanny and Child, Johannesburg, 1956

On 1 August 1954 the the Natives Resettlement Act was passed. This law enabled the apartheid
 government to remove people of colour from their residential areas. A few months after the law 
was passed black, coloured, Indian and Chinese people were forced to leave Sophiatown.

South African Jazz Under Apartheid

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