It’s already August! Can’t you believe it!? Time has flown by.
I recently had to work six-day work weeks. To keep me feeling good and being positive, I am listening to more jazz; either classic or smooth. Jazz has that element that can soothe the listener’s soul while exciting their souls, quenching it for more. Any type of jazz (classic, smooth, fusion) is never dull, it is the opposite! Do you feel the same way?
One of my recent favorites is Hugh Masekela and Herb Alpert’s rendition of the jazz classic “Skokiaan”.
Making My Wish Come True
I want to talk about a piece from a country that I haven’t mentioned before and something that was released before 1980. The reason is that I wish to have more variety within this blog and not just suggesting new release, always mentioning songs from only one decade, or featuring from a selected number of countries.
Apparently, Spotify heard my wish as today’s song was found on the “Discover Weekly” playlist. For those who don’t know, Fast Company explains perfectly what is this playlist:
“Discover Weekly is a playlist of songs that automatically appears each Monday in every Spotify user’s account. It analyzes that person’s listening history, focusing on the music he or she has played recently. It then compares that insight to the playlisting behavior of others. Scanning millions of playlists, the system finds tracks that are commonly listed alongside music with which a user is already familiar and then groups those tracks together into a new, personalized playlist. It essentially takes the tried-and-true “people who like that, also like this” logic of collaborative filtering and applies it to the process of making a mixtape.”
It’s basically a mixtape of songs you like. That is how I found “Skokiaan” by trumpeters Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela.
Revamping A Pop Tune for Jazz
“Skokiaan” wasn’t a song that was originally done by the duo. The original was actually released in 1947 by Zimbabwean musician August Musarurwa. It was written in the tsaba-tsaba big-band style. This subgenre is related to marabi style, an emerging style under African jazz back in the day. According to the Central African Journal of Medicine, “Skokiaan” refers to “an illegal self-made alcoholic beverage typically brewed over one day that may contain ingredients such as maize meal, water, and yeast, to speed up the fermentation process”.
Speaking of marabi, this type of jazz was influenced by jazz from the United States between the 1920s and 1940s. But, it added a South African twist to it. Garland Encyclopedia of Music further points out that “most South African jazz musicians could not read scores, so they developed their own jazz flavor, mixing American swing with African melodies. The dynamic blend of African-American structure and African style became the basis for early South African township jazz known as marabi.”
When Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela got their hands on the piece, it was already covered fifty times by different artists. It was covered by very famous musicians like Louis Armstrong, Bill Haley & His Comets, and Paul Anka. It was adapted in various styles like reggae, merengue, and mento. In the United States, it was popular enough to peak the charts in 1954, all thanks to The Four Lads and Johnny Hodges.
The song has further been covered by various artists around the world after the Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela version was released in 1978. Even the popular kids’ tunes group The Wiggles performed a version on the album Furry Tales, released five years ago. (I link a live performance of The Wiggle’s version below for all those moms and preschool teachers out there).
Why This Version?
You probably asking “Why did you choose this version when there are ones done by legendary artists?” True, no one can beat Louis Armstrong in being the best trumpeter in the modern musical world. However, compared to the versions of “Skokiaan” that I have listened to, Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela’s version is more upbeat and has a good feeling to it. This positive vibe starts at beat one when the piece opens with a fast-paced, miffed electronic guitar solo. The trumpet then comes in, adding more onto that optimistic feeling.
A nice touch to the song is when the chorus comes in at around the 1:15 mark. The lyrics are not sung in English but in a native language from the southern part of Africa. The style of how the vocalists sing the lines is done in a manner akin to African melodies. This stylistic decision was a brilliant one as it showcases that “Skokiaan” isn’t just some generic jazz piece, it’s a piece that truly embraces the idea of South Africa jazz.
Another nice touch is the trumpets. Compared to Louis Armstrong’s version, Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela softens the trumpet’s sound to make the piece feel more relaxed and playful. And, the idea of having two trumpets playing together during the chorus section is wonderfully done. The sound produced by the two is bold, but not over the top, and they blend together quite nicely in a fun way.
Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela’s take on “Skokiaan” is upbeat and fun. It makes the listener want to dance as it’s fast pace and light mood makes anyone feel good. Also, it is the perfect music to listen to at work or during a car ride. However, this “Skokiaan” reminds the listener that it’s not just any jazz piece, but one influenced by South African jazz with its mixture of lighthearted jazz and South African melodies.
What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!
And here is the Wiggles version:
About the Artists
Hugh Masekela was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. He was often referred to as the “the father of South African jazz”. After seeing the film “Young Man with a Horn” when he was 14, Masekela started to play the trumpet. While mastering the instrument, his schoolmates became interested in playing musical instruments and thus paved the way for Masekela to form the Huddleston Jazz Band. When Louis Armstrong took notice of the band, Masekela joined Alfred Herbert’s African Jazz Revue in 1956. The trumpeter garnered his only No. 1 hit on the US charts in 1968 with the song “Grazing in the Grass”. Sadly, the father of South African jazz passed away this past January due to prostate cancer.
Wikipedia has described Masekela’s musical journey as: “Masekela played music that closely reflected his life experience. The agony, conflict, and exploitation South Africa faced during the 1950s and 1960s inspired and influenced him to make music and also spread political change. He was an artist who in his music vividly portrayed the struggles and sorrows, as well as the joys and passions of his country. His music protested about apartheid, slavery, government; the hardships individuals were living. Masekela reached a large population that also felt oppressed due to the country’s situation.”
Herb Alpert is an American jazz musician and a recording music executive as he co-founded A&M Records with Jerry Moss. Focusing on trumpet and wire recorder during his early years, Alpert performed in various groups like the United States Army Band and the USC Trojan Marching Band. After college, Alpert went onto write songs for various musicians like Jan and Dean and Sam Cooke. In the 60s, influenced by the mariachi music style he heard in Tijuana, Mexico, Alpert put together the jazz band Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. It lasted for about five years, but there have been subsequent reunions ever since.
 Titlow, John Paul. “Why Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlists Are Such A Hit.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 13 Apr. 2018, www.fastcompany.com/3054176/why-spotifys-discover-weekly-playlists-are-such-a-hit.
 Saungweme, T, et al. “Iron and Alcohol Content of Traditional Beers in Rural Zimbabwe.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10695182?dopt=Abstract.
 Stone, Ruth (1998). Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Vol. 1. New York: Garland Pub.
 “Hugh Masekela.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Masekela.
This Post Has 64 Comments
I actually like the second the best, and think it got better from when the choir came in. That been said, I listen mostly to different songs when in need of happy-songs, anything dancy helps, I think Janelle Monae is awesome, Kendrick might work as well, for a melancholic mood Efterklang is perfect! Thing is, if I really like a song it can maybe me happy even if the song itself doesn’t have a completely happy vibe.
Thanks for your comment! I will check out Janelle Monae this week while on holiday! 😀
This was such an interesting post to read, as someone who doesn’t usually venture from acoustic, alternative and pop genres. When I think of upbeat, positive music I think of pop music, so hearing Jazz music and getting the same feelings was great! I’ll definitely have to explore the Jazz genre more to see what else is out there! Thank you for opening my eyes to it.
Jazz music is amazing, classical or modern. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting!
This post is just so beautifully written. I love the passion and detail you put into this post I really enjoyed reading it and the links inside. I love you blog. You’re an outstanding writer.
Awww, thanks! <3
I really enjoyed this mini music lesson! I’m not a big fan of jazz, so I don’t know much about the genre so thank you!
I’m glad you learned something from it! Thanks for commenting!
Wow. So many good ones here. I’m more into Coldplay kinda stuff for positive vibes when needed:) But will surely check out these too!
What is your favorite Coldplay song? I always love “Clocks”. Thanks for commenting!
When I’m down, Jazz , rock and country music are always my go-to that actually get me psyched up. Although I’m listening to more Spanish songs of late and they are as awesome.
Oooh, what kind of Spanish songs are listening to?
I love Manuel Turizo’s , Maite Perroni’s and Enrique’s so much.
I love anything upbeat that I can dance to so my go to is things like Cant stop the feeling – Justin Timberlake, or The Middle… The signing and dancing is what perks me up!
Jackie – Organised Mum Life
Can’t Stop the Feeling was the 5-year-old class’s graduation dance song. You can find the dance video on Youtube but my 3-year-olds loved the dance and we would dance it every day in class at the end of the year.
I am from Louisiana, so I can attest to the therapeutic nature of listening to jazz music. New Orleans has jazz music rolling from the streets every day and night. I think you would enjoy a visit here. Music is a great way to destress.
I loved this post! I love how you showcased the different versions (obviously not all of them!) and I especially liked the Wiggles version. How can one watch that and not be happy? It just brings instant joy to the heart.
As a music blogger, I love that you included the background of the song and the various artists.
What song makes me feel good and positive? Well, that varies from day to day, but lately it has been Pharrell’s “Happy”.
ps. you should join the other music bloggers for #MondayMusicMovesMe and the battle of the bands. We’d love to have you join us.
I don’t have a go to song as much as a go to genre. I LOVE 80s music, and listening to it makes me feel good. Every. Single. Time. <3
Music is therapy, it always makes me feel better.
I prefer both? Lol. The second is softer, definitely, but I love the “hard” sound of Armstrong too. Hugh is one of Africa’s many musical legends.
Thanks for commenting. I like both too. Just prefer the second one more because I’m more into softer jazz.
I like the Wiggles better because I have kids. If it was grown ups out dancing, I’d pick Herb Alpert. That never happens…so for me, Wiggles it is. 😉
I am used to the Wiggles because my sister grew up watching them (and being the kind big sister I am, I watched it with her). I have to check out Herb Alpert. Thanks for commenting!
Never heard this song before but I really liked it 😀
I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting!
We love jazz in our house and it’s our go-to selection when we cook together every night! It just makes you feel so good 🙂
It does! Thanks for commenting!
My favorite go-to song for feeling good and being positive is I”I’m Still Standing” by Elton John. I listened to that song on repeat while I was writing my PhD thesis. Even now, if I feel like the deck is stacked against me, I will listen to this song to make me feel strong again 🙂 And I definitely agree with you on the jazz! When I am stressed, I love listening to jazz music. I am more of a classical jazz person as opposed to smooth 🙂
”I’m Still Standing” is a great song and Elton John is a great song. When George Michaels died, I was listening to “Wrap Her Up” a lot. Thanks for sharing your go-to song and inspiring story!
What a great little read. You wouldn’t believe Skokiaan refers to an illegal self-made alcoholic beverage typically brewed over one day that may contain a dangerous ingredients, such as methylated spirits. My go to song is Stronger – Kelly Clarkson Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Tells that rough times make you stronger
You can get through anything al long as you stay strong.
Makes me feel like I can do anything. Girl power!
I love Kelly Clarkson, especially the stuff from her first two albums. Thanks for sharing your go-to song!
Loved your post…
I love the Daily Mix and Discover Weekly on Spotify! I’ve found some great music through that. I mostly listen to country music, and my go-to song changes all the time. Lately, Chris Young has been on my playlist a lot!
Oooh, I have to listen to Chris Young! Thanks for the recommendation!
I usually listen to worship songs because it definitely puts me in a much more positive mood.
What kind of worship songs do you enjoy?
I love music! music is the reason why I still keep me moving forward and also music determines me a lot I’m a huge fan of Coldplay you can check my blogpost about their concerts and everything. 🙂 Coldplay makes me live inspire <3
I love Coldplay too! What is your favorite song? I love “Clocks”.
Those are great songs. I welcome most genre of music,except maybe too many rap and the songs of today that focus on themes of sex and drugs that kind of thing.
Me too. I don’t like rap songs that are too negative and talk about violence/drugs. I know they are trying to make a statement but someone of it went too far. Thanks for commenting.
Glad we’re on the same page!
I have such an eclectic taste in music. I love music from most genres and right now am really listening to encouraging, uplifting music with great lyrics.
I hear you! I love uplifting music with great lyrics too! What is your song this week?
I can’t ever pick a favorite! I love jazz but tend to be more of a bebop girl.
Oooh, what kind of bebop artists do you listen to?
I absolutely adore listening to jazz music!!! Back in college we used to attend weekly out door concerts and it was fabulous!
Isn’t it amazing? I kind of wish we had outdoor jazz concerts here in the fall, it would be perfect. Thanks for commenting!
Very well expressed….yes music is a real mood changer….brings in positive changes …
I understand how this might not be everyones cup of tea, but I listen to Manowar and get my energy boost and feel empowered. Give it a go?
I will! Thanks for the recommendation!
After hectic schedules we really needs some relaxed atmosphere. Listening music give us mental relaxation . Your collection is really nice. I enjoyed hearing it.
Thanks for commenting! I am glad you enjoyed it! 😀
Fascinating! I have never heard of these artists, but I can see why their rendition of this song is the one that grabs you. My favorite go-to “happy mood” songs are mostly by Quebecois singers, in part because they make me think of the summers I lived in Quebec.
Oooh, I haven’t heard of any Quebecois singers. You have any recommendations?
Music is amazing! I love listening to bluegrass and gospel when I need a pick me up!
I loooooooooooooove gospel. What are your favorite performers or gospel music composers? I love Moses Hogan.
Loved reading this!!
I have very eclectic taste in music. From Kylie Minogue, Alanis, Bruno Mars, Metallica, Elton John, The Beatles, Shawn Mendes & many more.
My favourite go to song is Bruno Mars 24K Gold. It just radiates happiness & has a fantastic beat
24K Gold was popular here a couple years ago. But, Bruno Mars is big, especially his new song “Finesse”. I feel we got the same taste, I love Kylie (well SAW era), Alanis, Bruno, Elton John, The Beatles, and more. Thanks for commenting!
Smooth Jazz can definitely be relaxing to listen to! Thanks for introducing me to this song!
My daughter and I enjoy listening to jazz music together. It is super relaxing but fun at the same time.
I’m so glad I read this post on a Sunday morning you just set the tone for my day! Love jazz so much.
Its amazing to read this blog .
Am so happy that am land on excat place