Various Freedom Blues: South African Jazz Under Apartheid

Township jive and the beat of Soweto has long been associated with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, but it’s easy to overlook the importance of jazz to South African music, especially as the overtly American influences of hard bop and cool jazz were brought to bear on an increasingly cosmopolitan scene. The very quality of the music is likewise stunning in a way that’s more surprising than it should be, given that the names here include Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), Hugh Masekela and Chris McGregor of the Blue Notes. Perhaps that’s partly owing to the fact that all of the above exiled themselves from the dehumanising confinements of apartheid, but Freedom Blues does more than set the record straight. The anger and resentment fuelled by apartheid simmer, and rarely that far from the surface, in the deeply bluesy moodiness of that jazz of 30 and 40 years ago, as surely as optimism and resilience roiled with bitterness could be heard in John Coltrane’s "Afro-Blue." The highest compliment, though, is that it’s the music itself that recommends this compilation the most. (Music Collection International)