Andy Narell

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south africa

Andy Narell Jazz Club of Soweto

Andy Narell Jazz Club of Soweto

Playing in South Africa

I’ve been playing live gigs in South Africa since 1999, and most of the band has stayed together the entire time. Louis Mhlanga on guitar, Denny Lalouette on bass, Rob Watson on drums, Thomas Dyani and Tlale Makhenne on percussion, Camillo Lombard on keys. 

The South African public is amazing.  They love to sing and they know my tunes. It’s a different experience than I have anywhere else in the world. 

We shot video of a gig at the Bassline in Johannesburg – it will be posted it here soon.  

international marimba and steelpan festival

For the past four years I’ve been adjudicating at the biggest and most wonderful marimba festival in the world.  This year we had 1800 performers in three age categories – primary school, secondary school, and open.  Two days of joyous performances featuring marimba ensembles, pan, percussion, singing, and dancing.  This year groups came from all over South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Swaziland.


“Playing our pan in Soweto” 

Read this piece written by Keith Smith for the Trinidad Express. Keith is a writer whom I have great respect for. He writes a daily column in the Trinidad Express, and speaks eloquently on just about anything and everything. If you want to read more of his writing, go to the Trinidad Express web site.

Shout Out to the Andy Narell Jazz Club of Soweto, alive and well, still my friends, and still coming to my concerts.  Thanks you guys…

andy narell jazz club of soweto

The first time I had any idea that there was a growing interest in my music in South Africa was during a European tour I was doing with the Caribbean Jazz Project about 1995 or so. We were playing at a club in Copenhagen and a guy named Stan Bodibe came backstage and starting telling me how a lot of people back home were getting into it, and there was even a club named after me, an idea I couldn’t wrap my mind around at all. So when I finally went to South Africa in 1999 to play at the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg, and these guys were waiting for me at the airport with their Andy Narell Jazz Club tee shirts and hats on, I still had no idea what was going on. When more than 60,000 people turned out for the concert, and they started cheering at the beginning of tunes and singing along, I realized something was up. 

Like a message in a bottle, the records I was making had found their way to South Africa and found the audience I’d dreamed of having, and I was more than curious about this jazz club thing. I mean, here were these guys following me around to every record store signing and coming to the shows, and treating me like some kind of star. So we started hanging out, and I went out to Soweto to visit with them, and I tried to understand how this came about. 

Apparently the listening clubs of South Africa have their roots in the community groups that were created to pay for funeral arrangements. In economically poor societies it’s often a tremendous hardship for families to pay for a funeral when someone dies, so people pool their money to cover the costs. This is common to many places but South Africa appears to be unique in transforming this concept into clubs where people pool their money to be able to buy cds and listen to music. Clubs often bear the name of the town or district they come from, and some are named after a musician whom the members like. Unbeknownst to me, I was chosen to represent one of these clubs. Hence the Andy Narell Jazz Club of Soweto, a group of people that I have come to know and love and can call my friends, and a club of which I am proud to be a member. And they introduced me to pap and chakalaka. At right (or below, if you are on a small screen) is a statement from the club.



Andy Narell Jazz Club, was established in 1993


  • to reconnect jazz to the mainstream, and promote jazz as a force to make our society become less divided on racial lines. 
  • to promote jazz as music to be appreciated, listened to, moved to, and accessible to our countrymen and women, young and old, black and white. 
  • to collect music (cds, dvds etc.).
  • to encourage money savings — the Club operates a 32 day call account. 
  • to socialize, forge friendships, and help fellow members in times of distress. 
  • to guide and inspire each other.


We have a core of members who take turns in hosting sessions the first Sunday of each month. We have an Executive Committee which manages the affairs of the Club. Sessions are held in amphitheaters, community halls, jazz clubs, etc. and they are free of charge. On the day of the session, the host member prepares food for all the guests. Two disc jockeys take turns spinning discs. The primary purpose is to enlighten members and guests on the latest releases by various jazz artists. We often showcase one artist's release. Our sessions also feature poster displays, cd reviews, and we hope to do more with video and dvds. 

Andy Narell Hour

Usually between 1800h and 1900h — is exclusively for Narell's music. (Party time!)

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