The Englewood-Soweto Exchange is a collaborative exchange project led by internationally renowned saxophonist and composer Ernest Dawkins. (Provided)
Every now and then a jazz project emerges with the intention of linking the narrative to music and migration across the vast oceans that surround us. The history of the Black Atlantic is revisited with the next album The Englewood-Soweto Exchange, a collaborative exchange project led by internationally renowned saxophonist and composer Ernest Dawkins. It is a project that involves improvised African-American jazz and hip hop artists and comparable artists from South Africa.
As early as the late 1990s, Ernest featured South African musicians such as Zim Ngqawana, Lulu Gontsana, Louis Moholo O Moholo of The Blue Notes and many more on the stage at the Englewood Jazz festival. His own group arrived in South Africa in 2002, resulting in the recording of An Afro Opera: Homage to Nelson Mandela, an orchestral jazz suite starring Durban pianist and jazz educator Neil Gonzalves. . Ernest’s vision for this cross-cultural exchange is to explore the differences and similarities in the aesthetics of black music.
âThe Englewood Soweto Exchangeâ was born out of a jazz workshop and cultural exchange that encouraged young musicians from two different backgrounds linked by history to come together. Ernest deliberately selected musicians who had no previous experience of traveling to either continent, in search of the raw emotional quality he wanted to exhibit.
âWe Want Our Land Backâ is the first single produced by this collaborative project between the United States and South Africa and was officially released on music streaming platforms on February 25, 2021.
The tracks of the album are written by the musicians and worked on in the studio where the work was recorded, unfortunately the US immigration laws of the time as well as the COVID 19 restrictions affected the final participation of some.
Responding to what the musicians took away from this project, Ernest believes the exchange broadened horizons and opened up participating musicians to new possibilities of what they could do and where they could be. âBeyond the similarities, I hope that all musicians have connected or manifested in reality the collective consciousness of the African paradigm.â
Listening, one cannot ignore the guiding leadership of Ernest Dawkins who put the young troop free and at ease, while leading safely from behind. It is an amalgamation of words, sounds and rhythms, which creates a new sound of Africans and African Americans combined. The music is young, fresh, cheerful and above all unpretentious as a testament to the black consciousness contextualized in the classroom and played in the studio.
The album features the talents of Chicago pianist Alexis Lombre, drummer Isaiah Spencer, bassist Darius Savage, Brother El Mixologist on the decks, MC Artemis and South African rapper Memphis on Spoken Word, Lesedi Ntsane on Trumpet and now based in Durban. Linda Sikhakhane on tenor sax. The latter two joined the recording since they were in the United States at the right time. The founder of the group Ernest Dawkins is the undisputed master of the Saxes. Special mention goes to Eastern Cape bassist and grassroots educator Chantal Willie-Petersen and Tumpeter and composer Thabo Sikhakhane who were unable to travel.
The Englewood-Soweto exchange will officially launch on May 14, 2021.
The launch will take place at the Jazz Room at Rosebank
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