I know very little of my father, so when today I received photographs of him playing with his band District Six in 1983 it sparked a desire in me to collect the images together in one place with a little piece for him. Russell Herman was of South African descent and moved to London in 1982. Alongside playing in District Six, a band made up of other South African musicians from the infamous district in Cape Town, he also stood as a member of the ground-breaking band Estudio. What set apart Estudio, who left almost no recorded legacy, is that they existed as a mixed-race group playing together in the midst of the apartheid - at a time when it would have been forbidden to do so.
Estudio performing in South Africa in the 70s
My memories of the period we shared are scarce, and revolve mainly around his love of Tunnock's tea cakes, and so it is his contribution to music that I choose to remember him for. The kind of unity it exhibits is something that I hope to continually channel in my own life, in a bid to stand against the systems that I disagree with, and commit myself to holding strong beliefs. In his later life, Russell continued to support the distribution of South African music in London, in particular through the pianist Bheki Mseleku. He left the world in 1998 as a man well respected among his peers, as a jazz musician and avid lover of music. Though we do not often hear his name shared it is not for want of contribution to the musical arts. Today he acts as my inspiration. Indeed, one that may be distant and hazy in the best sense of the word, but all the same a man that I must recognise as a strong part of my identity.
Photos courtesy of Kenneth J Gill