Jazzing For a Better Future

South Africa and Beyond 1

Authored by: Christopher Ballantine

The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138231160
eBook ISBN: 9781315315805
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315315805-31

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Abstract

Rampant inequality and a plethora of deeply engrained habits of cultural and personal “othering” (including xenophobia, race essentialism, and racism): notwithstanding the immense achievements of a peaceful transition to a post-apartheid order, deformities of this sort continue to fracture the young South African democracy—as, indeed, they do the world at large. In the face of such deformities, jazz, like music in general, can easily seem escapist, anodyne, legitimating, or simply irrelevant. Yet this need not be its only, or inevitable, fate. In this chapter I argue that jazz can—indeed, that music often does—play a social role of immense importance, even (and perhaps especially) in troubled times. Grounding my argument on some important recent philosophical and historical texts, I seek to establish a theoretical basis for this claim, to identify some of the ways that (and some of the places where) music has had a significant social impact, and to show the deep and continuing relevance of jazz to the task of making, for South Africa and elsewhere, a future that is humane, socially cohesive, and worth having.

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