MarumoFemme’s Heroines of Jazz

The jazz space, like any other space we exist and find ourselves in, is unable to be nor is it able to fulfill it’s potential without the presence of the female figure. Often, jazz instrumentation and to an extent the audience of jazz music is associated predominately with the male figure. This is due to the times and context in which jazz music gained prominence in the early 1900s – more specifically in black culture. Seldom are the names of Helen Oakley Dance, Leora Henderson and Lil Hardin amongst others who were full on role players in this early 1900s foundation mentioned when speaking of jazz pioneers. Matter of fact Lil Hardin, a pianist, formed part of the Creole Jazz Band, the band that first gave notice to her husband, Louis Armstrong, way before he had been recruited to join.

Ladies are and have been instrumental to the rise of jazz music – and not just as vocalists!

On the 28th of March, two days before International Jazz Day, MarumoFemme took it in their stride to honour and highlight our local Jazz Heroines with a beautifully put together show curation. The duo, consists of sisters Kopano and Mamello Pule who have carefully and very intentionally named their duo, MarumoFemme – “Marumo” translating to “Spear” and “Femme” meaning “woman” – interprets to warrior woman, fighting woman, or powerful woman.

Jazz gatherings in the country are somewhat few and far in between, and when they do happen it feels as though there is a balancing act taking place where the organizers seem to want to pull a “mainstream” audience but still have a fusion of jazz music. To an extend this self-inflicted dilemma, can be interpreted as somewhat undermining the ability of a jazz audience to fill seats and wholesomely show up to events of the music they listen to, or even worse it dismisses the existence of the jazz audience altogether. What this also does is it minimizing the already minimal number of stages where a jazz artist in the country can feature given that the same “Mainstream” that jazz event organizers tries to pull does not replicate the same on their own event stages.

MarumoFemme put together a wholesome purely jazz gathering, with a lineup of female jazz artists and custodians. Amongst those that featured were Bokang Ramatlapeng, Linda Tshabalala, Nothemba Madumo and MoAfrika wa Mokgathi featuring on the lineup. This show was a display enough that not only are there women in jazz, but also that there is a fully tapped in jazz audience. People showed up in their numbers to come support the curatorship and all that it represents. We all found our way to the Shades of Summer Boutique Hotel on the outskirts of Pretoria for a day of live music performances, poetry, and good interaction. The intention of the show was clear from onset – to “serve as a heartfelt tribute recognizing the profound contribution of women to the jazz genre”.

The gathering was beautiful, the preparation and hard work that went into putting together the day’s event was clear to see for everyone who was there. The choice of venue complimented the intention of the day and seemed to lighten up each arriving guest before the music had taken over.

This show was important, it represented more than probably initially intentioned. It reminded us of how it feels to go to a full on jazz show but more importantly also shined the light on the amazing women of this beautiful genre.

Thank you MarumoFemme for your vision and efforts, it can only just get better and better from here!