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Edmund Ntemi Piliso: 1925-2000
Edmund Ntemi Piliso

Born: 1925 in Sophiatown, South Africa
Died: December 18, 2000 in Johannesburgh, South Africa

Pioneer of African Jazz

Copyright © 2001 


Saxophonist Edmund Ntemi Piliso helped shape and develop South African jazz. Along with his trumpeter brother, Shadrack, he contributed to the creation of the distinct sound of early South African jazz in the 1950s, achieved by bringing together the influence of American jazz, especially big band jazz, with more traditional African influences.

His Alexandra All-Star Band was an essential part of the jazz scene in the early 1950s in Sophiatown, a black community whose existence irked apartheid authorities. In 1955, the government forcibly removed Sophiatown’s black residents, and the township was razed to make way for a whites-only suburb.

Piliso later joined the celebrated African Jazz Pioneers group (one of their most famous compositions, “Sip n' Fly”, is a humorous ode to sneaking alcohol past the apartheid police). The band were finally able to travel abroad after the fall of apartheid and the lifting of the international cultural boycott of South Africa in 1990, and appeared in jazz clubs and festivals in Europe, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere in Africa.

He died after a long illness related to complications of diabetes.

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