The background of the African Jazz Pioneers stretches back to the 1950’s, when jazz was the fashion and big bands were the name of the game. The late Ntemi Edmund Piliso, leader and founding member of AJP, nourished the group from their humble roots to their current international acclaim.
In the early 1950’s Bra Ntemi and his Alexandra All Star band hit the cutting edge of South Africa’s music scene, blending American big band sound with traditional Majuba tempo’s and Marabi influences.
The African Jazz Pioneers enjoyed enormous success and had a huge following in those days. Sadly, all this came to an end in the late sixties with the demolition of Sophiatown, when big bands went out of fashion.
However, in June 1981, Bra Ntemi decided it was high time to re-unite the band and get them back on stage. African Jazz Pioneers were back on the road, their first performance was at a church in Alexandra. Despite the pass laws, discriminatory practices and censorship, African Jazz Pioneers survived apartheid and evolved their music.
International fame came soon after their first overseas tour as part of the Casa conference in Amsterdam in 1987. After the easing of the boycott in 1990, the African Jazz Pioneers were among the first to travel all over the world and perform at festivals in France, Japan, Switzerland, England, Spain, Germany, Sweden and Holland. During these years they shared the stage with the likes of Youssou N’Dour, Quincey Jones, Gilberto Gil, Nina Simone and Chick Corea, to name but a few.
Their music has been released in more countries than can be named here.