The Engelwood Soweto Exchange with Ernest Dawkins

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The Englewood-Soweto Exchange is a collaborative exchange project led by internationally acclaimed saxophonist & composer Ernest Dawkins. (Supplied)
The Englewood-Soweto Exchange is a collaborative exchange project led by internationally acclaimed saxophonist & composer Ernest Dawkins. (Supplied)

Once in a while a jazz project emerges with the intention to link the narrative of music and migration across the vast oceans that surround us. The story of the Black Atlantic is revisited with the forthcoming album The Englewood-Soweto Exchange, a collaborative exchange project that is led by internationally acclaimed saxophonist & composer Ernest Dawkins.  It is a project that involves African-American improvisational jazz and hip hop performing artists and comparable artists from South Africa.

From as far back as the late 1990s Ernest introduced South African musicians such as Zim Ngqawana, Lulu Gontsana, Louis Moholo O Moholo of The Blue Notes and many others to the stage of the Englewood Jazz festival. His own group came to South Africa in 2002,  resulting in the recording of An Afro Opera: Homage to Nelson Mandela an orchestral jazz suite featuring Durban-based jazz pianist and educator Neil Gonzalves. Ernest’s vision for this cross culture exchange aims to explore the differences and similarities in the aesthetics of black music.

“The Englewood Soweto Exchange" evolved from a jazz workshop and cultural exchange that encouraged young musicians from two different backgrounds bound by history, to find each other.  Ernest deliberately selected musicians who had no prior exposure to travels into either continent, in pursuit of the raw emotive quality he wanted to expose.

“We Want Our Land Back” is the debut single produced by this collaborative project between the U.S. and South Africa and was released officially across music streaming platforms on 25 February 2021.

Tracks of the album are written by the musicians and workshopped into the studio where the work was recorded, sadly 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 got out of this project, Ernest believes that the exchange broadened horizons and opened the participating musicians up to new possibilities of what they could do and where they could be.  “Beyond the similarities, I hope that all the musicians connected or manifested into reality the collective consciousness of the African paradigm.”

When listening one cannot ignore the guiding leadership from Ernest Dawkins who set the young troupe free and at ease, while steering safely from the back. It is an amalgam of word, sound, and beats,  that creates a new sound of Africans and African Americans combined. The music is young, fresh, joyous, and most of all it is unpretentious as a testament of Black consciousness contextualized in the classroom and played out in the studio.

The album features the talents of Chicagoans 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, South African New York based Lesedi Ntsane on Trumpet and now Durban based Linda Sikhakhane on Tenor Sax. The latter two  joined the recording since they were in the US at the right time.   Band founder Ernest Dawkins is the unmistakable Master on the Saxes.  Special mention goes to Eastern Cape bases Bass Player and Educator Chantal Willie-Petersen and Tumpeter and Composer Thabo Sikhakhane who both could not travel.

The Englewood-Soweto Exchange will be launched officially on 14 May 2021. 

The launch will take place at the Jazz Room in Rosebank 

For more information WhatsApp 073 211 9618 or email rosebankevents@doppio.co.za
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