Reflecting on the role Jazz played for Activism and Social Justice.

28 January 2019 Latest Most Popular Music

By Zuko Komisa

At the height of the then Civil Rights Movement, the relevance of the Jazz genre rose to prominance as the music that made sense of the trying times. Jazz musicians began composing music that was an aggressive reaction to the system and advocating for social justice through music.


Musicians of the day had a canny ability to speak through their their instruments in a way that people could hear. The music would make you feel life so deeply it brought tears to your eyes. The music was all that was left when no words could be spoken. Jazz had a way of shifting moods, tapping into realms that provoked a reaction, whether in action or feeling.

The year was 1959, a year that would redefine the manner in which Jazz composition and improvisation should idealyl be viewe: With a mixture of instruments all communicating a collage of emotions relevant at the time.

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In the same year 4 albums where released that would change Jazz forever. These albums were Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out”, Charles Mingus’ “Mingus ah um” and Ornate Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come”.

Though Jazz was the background music that was centre stage during the darkest history of many African-Americans and the world audience, it continued to raise a consciousness of a generation about social justice.

In the present day, there are musicians like the the likes Samora Pinderhughes collaborating with a spoken word movement called We Resist show another evolution to the genre. With social uplifting content that shines a spotlight on the injustices of present day in America and across the world. Issues of mass incarceration, gender inequality, poverty and miseducation and juxtaposing it with Jazz.