Last Night at the Bassline

Last Night At The Bassline, David B Coplan and Oscar Gutierrez, Jacana 2017

A BOOK written by David B Coplan, professor of social anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand and a 2016 JIAS Writing Fellow, was launched in Johannesburg on Sunday 11 June 2017.

Entitled Last Night At The Bassline, it records the history of the iconic Johannesburg jazz club Bassline, which closed its doors in December 2016. The book features photographs by Oscar Gutierrez and other photographers.

The backtext reads as follows:

‘In 1994, Brad and Paige Holmes opened a small, live-music venue in the bohemian suburb of Melville in Johannesburg. They called it Bassline, which very soon became synonymous with cigarette smoke, great jazz and nights you wished would never end. They later moved the club to Newtown where it grew in prominence as the ultimate venue for live music, hosting amazing artists like Thandiswa Mazwai, Jimmy Dludlu, Lira, The Soil, and the Grammy Award-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

‘In 2016 word spread like wildfire that everyone’s favourite club was closing its doors; this place that had held all the promises of a new South Africa, a place where people of all races could come together, share a drink, dance and fall in love, was to be no more.

‘In this book, the esteemed music historian Professor David Coplan tells the story of Bassline and the Holmes’ journey with it, thus giving musicians and jazz fans something to hold on to even after its closure.

‘With more than 50 iconic photographs by Oscar Gutierrez and other photographers. The book is more than just a memoir. It is a gritty, smoky, passionate slice of time. Bassline will always be a reminder of what it feels like to live the impossible.’

David Coplan is a respected writer and filmmaker. He arrived in South Africa in the early 1970s as an anthropology researcher at the University of Cape Town. His first book, In Township Tonight, was a pioneering social history of urban black music, dance and theatre in South Africa. A friend of the Holmes’, he too found sanctuary at the Bassline when he moved to Johannesburg to take up a professorship at the University of the Witwatersrand. He was a JIAS Writing Fellow in 2016.

Oscar Gutierrez arrived in South Africa in 1994. As a photojournalist he has documented a great range of events and issues in politics, religion and music with an impressive client list that includes The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, The G8 Music Festival, the Orbit and Bassline. He has an extensive photographic collection of contemporary South African music.

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