Cry Freedom

Kevin Le Gendre presents a four part series that celebrates jazz artists who have used their music to protest.



There is a canon of resistance songs in jazz that stretches through Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, and Duke Ellintgon's Black, Brown And Beige in the 50s via Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jnr in the 60s, Archie Shepp in the 70s and into the present with artists like Craig Harris, Denys Baptiste and Kip Hanrahan.

The Civil rights struggle of the 1960s produced anthemic music but many jazz artists have continued to champion human rights issues including homelessness, POVERTY and women's equality.

The brave activism of the civil rights era, through to bold critiques of contemporary governments are discussed by musicians who are not afraid to speak their minds.

Contributors include Archie Shepp, Max Roach, Hugh Masekela, Jayne Cortez, Don Byron, Dave Douglas and Gary Crosby.


The 1960s saw political turmoil and upheaval across the world from the Civil Rights movement in the US to independence struggles throughout Africa and student uprisings in Europe.

While these events unfolded, a new sound ignited jazz.

Known as free jazz or simply, the New Music, it saw artists release themselves from the constraints of melody and rhythm in favour of energetic and at times volcanic expression.

As well as developing 'New Music' some players also adopted a DIY approach, forming independent labels, finding new venues and founding collectives such as the Jazz Composers Guild in NEW YORK and AACM in Chicago.

In the subsequent decades organisations such as DAAGNIM would also spring up and in Britain we saw the Jazz Warriors and more recently F-IRE.

To what extent do these collectives uphold the revolutionary spirit of their '60s forebears? Have they found the ultimate artistic and political freedom?

Contributors include Peter Brotzman, Bill Dixon, Don Byron, Archie Shepp.


When singer Miriam Makeba addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1963 about the plight of her home land, she did more to raise awareness of the horrors of apartheid on both sides of the Atlantic than mere politicians had achieved.

German saxophonist highlighted the same issue with his coruscating F**k De Boer, Mile Davis did the same with Tutu and Wayne Shorter raised awareness of the unjust treatment of the Burmese people and their democratically elected leader with his recent Aung San Suu Kyi.

In part three of Cry Freedom Kevin Le Gendre explores the ways that jazz musicians have both celebrated their African roots and spoken out against oppression around the globe.

Contributors include Wayne Shorter, Hugh Masekela, Marcus Miller, Peter Brotzman, Abbey Lincoln, Gilad Atzmon.

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In the late fifties Sonny Rollin's Freedom Suite was withdrawn from the market due to Sonny's controversial sleeve notes and retitled Shadow Waltz.

It took a switch from multi-national label Columbia to independent Candid to get Charles Mingus' Fables Of Faubus released in its coruscating entirety and artists like Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd would struggle to release their music on a major label today.

Many jazz artists have used their music to express protest but they must still confront censorship by the music industry and media.

What kind of risk does a musician run if he decides to speak out on a controversial subject and does the internet age give new opportunities for freedom of expression?

Contributors include Billy Bang, Dave Douglas, Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd, Don Byron, and MeShell Ndege Ocello.