Disruption: Gender, Jazz and the Lady Day Big Band
With the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, emphasis on disentangling patriarchal narratives of male dominance have found voice in popular culture as well as within the self-consciously insular world of academia. Yet despite the prominence of this movement, many industries remain highly male-centric. Jazz, and particularly jazz in South Africa, can be considered an industry and genre which – while certainly being at the forefront of decolonial movements based on race in both apartheid and postapartheid
South Africa – has not been similarly transformative in terms of gender. This is evident both within academic literature and in the social media activities of various prominent women in South African jazz, and indeed women active in areas of musical practice in wider contexts. The Lady Day Big Band, named after jazz singer Billie Holiday’s nickname, is an all-women big band founded in 2018 by Amanda Tiffin, Lana Crowster and Kelly Bell. The band started as a response to the highly patriarchal and male-dominated South African jazz scene, as well as in response to the traumas that women in music in South Africa had experienced, creating a safe space where musicians could create and be experimental without fear of judgment. This article explores how the Lady Day Big Band intentionally subverts and disrupts the historically marginalised position of women in jazz.