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Shabaka and the Ancestors Are Making Their Own Jazz History

A relatively new collaboration between a British saxophonist and a group of South African musicians is creating huge buzz in the jazz world.  While their sound doesn’t resemble the type of jazz being played in the UK or SA, its unique voice is being heralded as the potential future for the genre. The members of the Ancestors all have a distanced relationship to the American jazz tradition, which is to say they enjoy the privilege of choice. Together they have plucked some specific inspirations — the spiritual jazz of Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders; and the recent success of Kamasi Washington, which showed them what might be possible — but more or less left the rest. Beyond that, the Ancestors’ sonic inheritance comes mostly from South Africa, from bands like the indigenous jazz-rockers Batsumi and the numerous apartheid-era musicians who found refuge in Britain like Louis Moholo, Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani and Hugh Masekela.