Jazz has returned to Joburg.

The sounds that were very much part of the creation of the real Johannesburg, South Africa, much of it in celebration of humanity and in opposition to apartheid, are again echoing through the inner city.

The legendary Kippie Moeketsi’s saxophone and Jack Lerole’s pennywhistle sounds and the angelic voices of Sophie Mgcina, Mirriam Makeba, and Dolly Rathebe vocals provided solace and dignity to the thousands who were deemed but resisted being labeled non-citizens. The Jazz Pioneers provided the dance tunes, both at special venues and at occasions such as weddings.

For black South Africans, jazz provided a blanket of dignity. And lots of fun. When the music moved their souls and bodies, Joburgers and those attracted to the city by a promise of lights and gold got lost in themselves. That was the 50s, 60s, and early part of the 70s.

The 80s saw the re-emergence of jazz which was played at venues such as Kippie’s, named after Kippie Moeketsi, Sophiatown, and Nikkies among others. Here, new jazz artists such as McCoy Mrubata, Zim Ncawana and 

And then there was nothing…

54 Houses of Africa, a new unique venue in the heart of Joburg central business district, has brought jazz back to the City of Gold.

Not only has the venue reignited the sounds that has made Johannesburg the melting pot of cultures in Johannesburg but it has become a place where the future of jazz is being showcased.

Jazz stars such as Nduduzo Makhathini have grazed the venue, introducing a new concept called jazz conversations. During these sessions, Makhathini, a winner of the Standard Bank Young Musician of the world not only wows the audience with his music but engages in a conversation with them. Topics range from circumstances that surrounded the creation of certain tracks.

Makhathini calls his unique sessions “Conv-ncerts”. It is a performance that incorporates both music and conversation. During his recent gig at 54 Houses of Africa, Makhathini, together with fellow alchemists Ndabo Zulu, Nhlanhla Radebe and Gontse Makhene explored various repertoires that evoked themes for dialogue with the audience. The concept seeks to reduce the gap between artists and the audience.

“It is not a gig. It’s a ritual. It’s not a concert, it’s a conversation…, “ says Makhathini. 

Jazz greats who have graced the stage at the venue include Herbie Tsoaeli, Ntokozo Zungu, Simo Jazz Quartet, Wits Jazz Band and Afrika Mkhize.

Future stars who have showcased their talents at Fifty Four Houses of Africa include Jazz Worshippers, 251 Africa, Children of the Sun and The Tshepo Moeketsi Quintet.

Owner and entrepreneur Dumisani Zulu says the venue is a place where Joburgers and fellow Africans meet each other.

The venue is not only for jazz but one where the history of Africa and each of her countries will be celebrated. It is also a space for art that showcases all art forms – documentaries, fine art, and literature.

“This is where Joburg meets Joburg. This is where Africa meets Africa. We will have debates and panel discussions where Africans will discuss themselves, their issues and their future. Each month we will celebrate the culture, music and history of a specific country, in collaboration with embassies stationed here. The feedback we’ve had is beyond exciting,” said Zulu.

54 Houses of Africa is an intimate space with limited sitting. For bookings and reservations please call: 0744347417.

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