Johnny Dyani

Johnny Mbizo Dyani (30 November 1945 – 24 October 1986) was a South African jazz double bassist and pianist, who played with such musicians as Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, David Murray, Finnish guitar player Jukka Syrenius and Leo Smith.

Johnny Dyani
Birth nameJohnny Mbizo Dyani
Born(1945-11-30)30 November 1945
OriginEast London, South Africa
Died24 October 1986(1986-10-24) (aged 40)
InstrumentsDouble bass
Years activec.1960–86
LabelsOgun, SteepleChase
Associated actsThe Blue Notes, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, David Murray, Leo Smith


Dyani was born and grew up in Duncan Village, a township of the South African city of East London.

In the early 1960s, he was a member of South Africa's first integrated jazz band, The Blue Notes, with Mongezi Feza on trumpet, Dudu Pukwana on alto saxophone, Nikele Moyake on tenor saxophone, Chris McGregor on piano, and Louis Moholo on drums. In 1964, the band fled South Africa to seek musical and political freedom. Moholo explained, "We were rebels and we were trying to run away from this apartheid thing. We rebelled against the apartheid regime that whites and blacks couldn't play together. We stood up."[1]

In 1966, Dyani toured Argentina with Steve Lacy's quartet. Lacy, Dyani and Moholo recorded The Forest and the Zoo.

In 1971 Dyani formed his own group Earthquake Power, and in 1972 co-founded Xaba with Mongezi Feza and Okay Temiz.[2]

Performing widely throughout Europe, Dyani moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, in the early 1970s, and about ten years later to Sweden, recording many albums under his own name. He recorded with Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, David Murray, Joseph Jarman, Clifford Jarvis, Don Moye, Han Bennink, Brotherhood of Breath, Mal Waldron, Pierre Dørge and many others.

Dyani died suddenly in 1986 after a performance in West Berlin.[2]


After his death, the remaining members of The Blue Notes reunited to record a moving tribute album, entitled Blue Notes for Johnny. Other musical tributes include:

In a memorial published in the South African magazine Rixaka, Pallo Jordan wrote of Dyani: "Above all, his music resounded with a joy in life."[3]


  • 1964: The Blue Notes Legacy – Live in South Africa 1964 (Ogun, released in 1995)
  • 1967: Steve LacyThe Forest and the Zoo (ESP)
  • 1970: Alan ShorterTes Esat (America)
  • 1971: Don CherryOrient (BYG)
  • 1973: Good News From Africa with Abdullah Ibrahim
  • 1973: Music For Xaba Okay Temiz
  • 1975: Blue Notes For Mongezi with Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, Louis Moholo
  • 1976: Haazz & Co – Unlawful Noise with P. Brotzmann, H. Bennink, L. Moholo, P. Bennink
  • 1976: Johnny Dyani with Chris JorisSongs For Mbizo (released VKH Tonesetters, 1991 [incl. Dyani's voice] and Jazz Halo/Omnitone, 2002)[4]
  • 1977: Abdullah IbrahimThe Journey (Chiaroscuro)
  • 1978: Johnny Dyani with John Tchicai & Dudu PukwanaWitchdoctor's Son (SteepleChase)
  • 1978: Johnny Dyani Quartet – Song for Biko (SteepleChase)
  • 1978: Johnny Dyani & David MurrayLet the Music Take You (Marge)
  • 1979: Abdullah Ibrahim/Johnny Dyani – Echoes From Africa (Enja)
  • 1980: Joseph Jarman, Famoudou Don Moye feat. Johnny Dyani – Black Paladins
  • 1981: Johnny Dyani & Mal Waldron Duo Live at Jazz Unité – Some Jive Ass Boer (Jazz Unité)
  • 1983: Johnny Dyani & Joe BonnerSuburban Fantasies (SteepleChase)
  • 1983: Live at Umea Jazz Festival Anders Gahnold Trio with Gilbert Mathews
  • 1984: Pierre Dørge & New Jungle OrchestraBrikama (SteepleChase)
  • 1984: Percussion Summit (Moers Music)
  • 1984: Johnny Dyani – Afrika (SteepleChase)
  • 1985: Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra – Even the Moon Is Dancing (SteepleChase)
  • 1985: Live at Jazzclub Fasching – Anders Gahnold Trio with Gilbert Mathews
  • 1986: Johnny Dyani Quartet – Angolian Cry (SteepleChase); with Harry Beckett and John Tchicai
  • 1987: Johnny Dyani – Witchdoctor's Son – Together (Cadillac Music & Publishing)
  • 1990: Detail – In Time WasFrode Gjerstad, John Stevens, Kent Carter
  • 1993: Three Khan Jamal, Pierre Dorge
  • 1995: Detail – Last Detail Live at Café Sting – Frode Gjerstad, John Stevens, Kent Carter
  • 1996: Born Under The Heat
  • 2014: Rejoice & Together


  1. Eyles, John. "Louis Moholo: The Sound of Freedom". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  2. Francesco Martinelli, Johnny Dyani biography at AllMusic.
  3. Jordan, Pallo (1988). "Johnny Dyani: a Portrait". Rixaka. 1988 (4): 4–8. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
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