“The narrative of Salim Washington’s exposure to music is a remarkable one. Living in the notorious, “Black Bottom” during the 1960-70’s, coupled with the explosion of the Black Power movement, unfortunately did not exclude him from being drafted into the neighborhood gang. But Salim’s life took a different direction once he picks up the trumpet, which happen to be the instrument of his gang leader. Seeing his potential the gang leader goaded him into learning to play and excused him from the gang. Even entering into Harvard in 1976 could not quell his pursuit to become a jazz musician, thus dropping out of school in order to play with several bands in many towns and cities. At this very same time in his life, expanding into political activism, working and focusing on support for the anti-Bakke decision and the Disinvestment movement against South Africa. 1993 found Salim returning to Harvard and completing his PhD in 2000, while still remaining active as a performer, writer, activist and family man. After teaching African-American History and Culture at Brooklyn College for nearly a decade, Dr. Salim Washington has immigrated to Durban, South Africa. Arriving as a Fulbright Senior Scholar/Artist in 2009, he experienced the great potential of this country, invoking the thought for him to make this his home.
“My experiences with Paul Gilroy’s adroit description of the Black Atlantic deepened considerably upon moving to and teaching in Durban, South Africa. As a musician and also as a band director I have been privileged to experience some of the ways in which music, and particularly jazz, has grown in such a way as to transcend national borders. The South African treatment of jazz music includes many of the tropes of African American, but also repositions the very same tropes to signify upon their experience within South Africa. Furthermore, the sensibility of South African musos often include what musician/ethnomusicologist, Sazi Dlamini, has theorized as triple consciousness. This notion of triple consciousness of course is a signification and complication of DuBois’ famous articulation of African American double consciousness. In South Africa this has affected jazz practice historically and continues to evolve to this day. Added to the racialized basis of double consciousness are the living traditions of various ethnicities in the South African cultural landscape that brings an ad- ditional fluidity and also a more complex world view. I have learned that in addition to being one of the great modernisms, South African jazz is simultaneously a stellar example of post-modernity and deeply involved in improvising across national boundaries.”