‘Word-Jazz’: Intersections Between Todd Matshikiza’s Literary and Musical Lives

  • Andrea Thorpe


In this essay, I explore the connections between Todd Matshikiza’s occupation as a musician and composer, and his writing career. Firstly, I discuss how scholars have situated Matshikiza’s writing within the context of Drum magazine’s African-American influenced idiom, in which jazz is a metonym for a resistant political stance. I also highlight the ways in which Matshikiza’s writing provides an invaluable resource for historians of South African music. Furthermore, Matshikiza’s commentary on the development of the ‘jazz musical’ King Kong offers a significant window into the history of this influential production, and his emphasis on the exoticisation and appropriation present in the reworking of his compositions is continuous with the jazz scene he describes in Soho and his observations of the consumption of jazz amongst white South Africans in London. This essay also briefly traces how the publication of Matshikiza’s autobiography derived from his involvement with King Kong. Thus, I suggest ways in which Matshikiza is distinctive amongst his fellow Drum writers because of the intersections between his musical and writing careers.


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eISSN: 0258-509X