The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town, South Africa 1987–1989

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Michael Wyeth — The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town, South Africa 1987–1989

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World Series Michael Wyeth — The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town, South Africa 1987–1989
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Michael Wyeth — The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town, South Africa 1987–1989
Michael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200f.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12002.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120010.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120015.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120017.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120011.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12009.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120014.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120018.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12008.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12006.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120016.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12003.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12007.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12004.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12005.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120012.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120013.jpgMichael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200b.jpg
Michael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200f.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12002.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120010.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120015.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120017.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120011.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12009.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120014.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120018.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12008.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12006.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120016.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12003.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12007.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12004.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12005.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120012.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120013.jpgMichael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200b.jpg
£6.70
36 pages
printed in England
staple bound
14cm x 20cm

The Base was a popular nightclub and live music venue founded by Justin Dyssell, Steve Gordon, Laurence Friedman and others, at 88 Shortmarket Street in Cape Town’s historical city centre. It opened on 19 August 1987. Shortly afterwards, the venue launched a popular Sunday evening jazz slot known as the Jazz Den, which was run by Christian Syrén. The Base/Jazz Den operated during the tumultuous final decade of apartheid, a period of heightened civil unrest and state repression in South Africa. The venue was open to musicians and party-goers of all races, a rarity in this segregated society. Its cosmopolitan character made The Base/Jazz Den a popular meeting venue for political activists and future leaders of various races. Musically, the Base/Jazz Den was a liberated zone. It provided a platform for professional musicians and DJs working across a wide range of musical styles, including punk, folk, hip hop, rhythm & blues and, occasionally, heavy metal, as well as homegrown genres like Mbaqanga, Mbube, Afro jazz and boere rock. The Base/Jazz Den truly was a venue for everyone, including disco girls, homeboys, Rastas, jazz-heads, goths and punks.

The selection featured here documents some of the life of this venue from the time just prior to its opening in 1987 through to 1989. I knew Justin personally and enthusiastically pitched in to help him promote the club, which involved a fair amount of photography. Having been to art school, I was useful in other ways too. I designed The Base’s logo and soon after it opened, I was tasked with creating silk-screened posters advertising forthcoming attractions at the club. Photographically, my intention was to record the bands and musicians equitably. Working mostly in black and white – and infrequently, using a second camera, colour transparency as well – I focused on shooting musicians “straight on”. The stage lighting was always variable and in the dark, cavernous location, I used a 35mm camera with a wide-angle lens and a hand-held flash. I liked to shoot close, with no effects and no cropping, within a set stage or template. I wanted to show the musicians at work, which meant including details like instruments, microphones and wires taped to the floor and where it occurred, the people in the background. With the low stage, I was able to move freely amongst the musicians.

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World Series Michael Wyeth — The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town, South Africa 1987–1989
Next
Michael Wyeth — The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town, South Africa 1987–1989
Michael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200f.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12002.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120010.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120015.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120017.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120011.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12009.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120014.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120018.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12008.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12006.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120016.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12003.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12007.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12004.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12005.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120012.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120013.jpgMichael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200b.jpg
Michael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200f.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12002.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120010.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120015.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120017.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120011.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12009.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120014.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120018.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12008.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12006.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120016.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12003.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12007.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12004.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web12005.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120012.jpgMichael Wyeth The Base and Jazz Den Cape Town South Africa 1987–1989 web120013.jpgMichael-Wyeth--The-Base-and-Jazz-Den-Cape-Town-South-Africa-1987–1989-web1200b.jpg
£6.70
36 pages
printed in England
staple bound
14cm x 20cm

The Base was a popular nightclub and live music venue founded by Justin Dyssell, Steve Gordon, Laurence Friedman and others, at 88 Shortmarket Street in Cape Town’s historical city centre. It opened on 19 August 1987. Shortly afterwards, the venue launched a popular Sunday evening jazz slot known as the Jazz Den, which was run by Christian Syrén. The Base/Jazz Den operated during the tumultuous final decade of apartheid, a period of heightened civil unrest and state repression in South Africa. The venue was open to musicians and party-goers of all races, a rarity in this segregated society. Its cosmopolitan character made The Base/Jazz Den a popular meeting venue for political activists and future leaders of various races. Musically, the Base/Jazz Den was a liberated zone. It provided a platform for professional musicians and DJs working across a wide range of musical styles, including punk, folk, hip hop, rhythm & blues and, occasionally, heavy metal, as well as homegrown genres like Mbaqanga, Mbube, Afro jazz and boere rock. The Base/Jazz Den truly was a venue for everyone, including disco girls, homeboys, Rastas, jazz-heads, goths and punks.

The selection featured here documents some of the life of this venue from the time just prior to its opening in 1987 through to 1989. I knew Justin personally and enthusiastically pitched in to help him promote the club, which involved a fair amount of photography. Having been to art school, I was useful in other ways too. I designed The Base’s logo and soon after it opened, I was tasked with creating silk-screened posters advertising forthcoming attractions at the club. Photographically, my intention was to record the bands and musicians equitably. Working mostly in black and white – and infrequently, using a second camera, colour transparency as well – I focused on shooting musicians “straight on”. The stage lighting was always variable and in the dark, cavernous location, I used a 35mm camera with a wide-angle lens and a hand-held flash. I liked to shoot close, with no effects and no cropping, within a set stage or template. I wanted to show the musicians at work, which meant including details like instruments, microphones and wires taped to the floor and where it occurred, the people in the background. With the low stage, I was able to move freely amongst the musicians.

The mixed race audience was, of course, central to the identity of The Base/Jazz Den. Photographing the audience wasn’t without complication, since such gatherings were technically illegal at the time. Police spies and informers were regular visitors and I generally avoided photographing patrons for fear of accidentally snapping one of them. It was popular sport among apartheid’s enforcers to confiscate photographic equipment or, worse still, to detain dissidents without trial. Unsurprisingly, given its young and politically conscious audience, the Base/Jazz Den was frequently raided by police. This sustained attention and harassment was one of the main reasons that the venue closed in the early 1990s.

The full photographic archive that this selection is drawn from includes rare photographs of the following performers: Sakhile, Ezra Ngcukana, Blondie Makhene and the African Youth Band, Basil Coetzee and Sabenza, McCoy Mrubata, Jennifer Ferguson, Tony Cedres, Warrick Sony, Bright Blue, Johannes Kerkorrel and the Gereformeerde Blues Bland, The Genuines, Peto, Dizu Plaatjies and Amanpondo, James Phillips and Cherry Faced Lurchers, Winston’s Jive Mix Up, Khaki Monitor, Simba Morri, Jama, Tananas, The Believers and Smoking Brass. Apart from Philip Tabane, Johnny Clegg and Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, who also feature in this archive, many of the performers and bands who gigged at the venue were unknown outside of South Africa but they nonetheless had much local and cultural significance.

Michael Wyeth was born in Cape Town in 1952. Wyeth studied photography at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, notably 1988, ‘South Africa Photo Statements’ curated by Nigel Fogg, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; 2009, ‘Jol’, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; 2009 curated by Pam Warne, ‘Surfaces, Spaces and Shrines’ (solo), Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town; 2014, ‘Surfaces, Spaces and Shrines’, book launch, Pierre Cronje Showroom, Cape Town; 2017, ‘A Short History of South African Photography’, Reggio Emilia, Italy, curated by Rory Bester, Thato Mogotsi and Rita Potenza; and 2022, ‘Photo book! Photo-book! Photobook!’, curated by Sean O’Toole, A4 Arts Foundation, Cape Town. Formerly owner/director of Imago Visual, a boutique creative agency, he is currently working on various ongoing photographic projects, and the launch of a new “retrospective” website of his photographic work. Wyeth currently has work in many private collections and the University of Cape Town.

36 pages

Printed in England

Staple bound

14cm x 20cm