Thursday, 20 December 2012

Marabi Nights: A Gem of a read (and a listen) for Jazz lovers

In Durban last week, Christopher Ballantine, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal,  and internationally acclaimed music sociologist, launched the second edition of his book Marabi Nights – Jazz, ‘race’ and society in early apartheid South Africa. He also happens to be our friend which makes us especially proud of him.

 The book is described as  

“ updated and substantially expanded edition of (his) classic study of the triumphs and tragedies of South Africa’s marabi-jazz tradition. New chapters extend the book’s in-depth account of the birth and development of urban-black popular music. They include a powerful story about gender relations and music in the context of forced migrant labour in the 1950s, a critical study of the legendary Manhattan Brothers that uniquely positions their music and words in relation to the apartheid system, and an account of the musical, political and commercial strategies of the local record industry. A new afterword looks critically at the place of jazz and popular music in South Africa since the end of apartheid, and argues for the continued relevance of the robust, questioning spirit of the Marabí tradition.

The book includes an illustrative CD of historic sound recordings that the author has unearthed and saved from oblivion.


‘Written by the most distinguished figure of South African musicology, [it] aims at nothing less than a complete revision of some of the most entrenched myths about South African music.’
Veit Erlmann, Freie Universität, Berlin

‘Ballantine has written an important book which goes far beyond its subject matter, jazz. It is a gem of scholarship.’
Z.B. Molefe, 

'There are not many books like this, to which you can dance.'
John Lonsdale, Trinity College, Cambridge

‘There is no doubt that Marabi Nights is one of a few seminal works in South African jazz history. It made a very significant contribution to mapping South African proletarian history when it first appeared and remains an important work of cultural historiography.’
Gwen Ansell, author of Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music & Politics in South Africa

 The launch last week in Durban 

For more information  and photos go to

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