CULTURE

Stop all that jazz, reggae music is ready to take over

Now well into its first week of business for winter with Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist Buster Williams and his combo as the season’s opening act, the capital’s Half Note Jazz Club has booked Ras Dumisani, a French-based South African reggae artist, for a week of performances beginning Friday. Williams ends his one-week run at the venue tomorrow. Dumisani emerged as a recording artist in 1992 with «Zululand Reggae» as his debut album. Its cast included several capable reggae music figures such as London-based engineer Denis Bovell, who has also worked with Linton Kwesi Johnson, one of reggae’s towering figures, and Micky Dread, a former Clash collaborator. Bovell will be traveling here as Dumisani’s keyboardist in a four-member lineup. His most recent album, «Sun Will Be Shining,» released two years ago, had been preceded by contributions to several compilation albums. Operating from his French base since the early 1990s, Dumisani has performed at various worthy reggae events around the Continent, such as Italy’s Rototom Reggae Sunsplash in Venice, where he has played regularly in recent years. Dumisani has not forsaken his African roots either, with occasional return visits there for shows in various countries. Dumisani was born and raised in Durban, where he grew up in a Christian home. As a youngster, he often sang in school and church choirs before developing into an unruly youth. Around the time Dumisani began feeling increasingly engaged by his early musical endeavors, a career in soccer also stood as a possibility. But he chose music over sport, perhaps swayed by his musical background. Dumisani, whose father had worked as a singer, decided to leave hometown Durban after feeling that his opportunities there were limited. His move to Johannesburg for wider exposure, however, was not successful. Local promoters, Dumisani felt, were obstructing him from playing the circuit over political concerns. A frustrated Dumisani eventually abandoned South Africa, roamed freely for a while to play his music in various parts of the world before settling in France. But before reggae music takes over the Half Note for a week, there are still two nights of jazz with Williams, an accomplished, award-winning bassist renowned for his deep, resilient and inventive playing style. He has played and recorded alongside numerous jazz greats in his lengthy career, including Art Blakey, Chick Corea, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Since the late 1980s, he has led his own band, Something More. «After working almost continuously for 30 years as a sideman, I decided it was time to take the plunge, step up front, play my music, and express my concept of a cohesive musical unit,» Williams notes in his biography. «I’ve served my apprenticeship under many great masters and feel that it’s my honor and privilege to carry on the lineage that makes this music such an artistically rich art form.»