marabi, African jazz, US jazz, Harlem Swingsters, Alexandra All Stars Band, apartheid, politics, mbaqanga, bebop, African Jazz Pioneers


Associated with the local swing style usually described as African jazz, Edmund “Ntemi†Piliso was one of the most highly regarded, frequently recorded, extensively consulted and best known South African musicians of the twentieth century. Renowned for his deep knowledge of the urban black South African popular music of his time, as well as for his reflexively intelligent insights into its relationship with mainstream international jazz, he is perhaps more appropriately thought of as an “organic intellectual†of his time, place, and musical culture. The article introduces Piliso and then presents a wide-ranging interview dealing with his life and work. Piliso recounts this history, offering numerous insights into many of the key social, political, and musical developments of his time.

Author Biography

Christopher Ballantine, Dr, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Christopher Ballantine, is Professor Emeritus of Music and Fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Widely published internationally, his work explores the meanings and social implications of music, and the forces that shape it. In particular, he has written about the music of the last 100 years, the philosophy and sociology of music, and South African music. He is the author of five books, most recently the award-winning Marabi Nights: Jazz, ‘Race’ and Society in Early Apartheid South Africa (2012), and the co-authored Living Together; Living Apart? Towards Social Cohesion in a Future South Africa (2017).


Ballantine, Christopher. 2012 Marabi Nights: Jazz, “Race” and Society in Early Apartheid South Africa. Second edition. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press.

Coplan, David. 1998 “Black Popular Music in South Africa.” The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 1: 111–122.

Coplan, David. 2007 In Township Tonight! South Africa’s Black City Music and Theatre. Second edition. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Hannerz, Ulf. 1994 “Sophiatown: The View from Afar.” Journal of Southern African Studies 20 (2): 186.

Interviews by author
Lerole, Aaron. Johannesburg, 15 January 1986.
Piliso, Edward “Ntemi”. Johannesburg, 24 January 1984 to 26 July 1986.




How to Cite

Ballantine, Christopher. 2018. “EDMUND “NTEMI” PILISO JAZZING THROUGH DEFEAT AND TRIUMPH: AN INTERVIEW”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 10 (4):144-59. https://doi.org/10.21504/amj.v10i4.2237.