Sophiatown Bar Lounge
The Sophiatown Bar Lounge is inspired by the multicultural Johannesburg suburb from which it takes its name. Historically, Sophiatown was a hive of creativity and political activism. In the first half of the 20th century, it produced some of South Africa’s most famous jazz musicians. Today, this Newtown jazz venue celebrates their legacy.
The Sophiatown Bar Lounge is a restaurant and jazz venue in Newtown, Johannesburg, inspired by the history of Sophiatown.
The multicultural suburb of Sophiatown was a beacon of creativity in the early and middle decades of the 20th century. It was one of the few places in South Africa where people of all races could live and do business together. Forced removals put an end to this in 1955.
Until that point, however, it was home to South African jazz musicians, artists, writers and intellectuals who believed in an alternate vision for the country. Instead of the segregation enforced by apartheid, they saw the potential for a dynamic, non-racial society.
The Sophiatown Bar Lounge pays tribute to Sophiatown’s legacy. It was started by brothers Ziggy and Mzwa Thabethe. They began working in the restaurant business as waiters. Over the years, they refined their vision for the restaurant they would one day own.
They decided to theme their Johannesburg jazz venue around Sophiatown’s jazz legends, such as Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim and Jonas Gwangwa. Photos and murals of these Sophiatown’s music icons decorate the club’s walls. These musicians embodied the brothers’ ambition for the restaurant. Like the musicians they honour, Ziggy and Mwa hope to unite and inspire people under one roof.
Today, the Sophiatown Bar Lounge is literally and figuratively at the heart of the South African jazz scene. As well as serving up large helpings of iconic jazz sounds, the venue also hosts well known and emerging contemporary artists.
Their live shows can be enjoyed with drinks and a meal from the venue’s restaurant. It serves up South African cuisine that includes traditional dishes like mogodu (tripe) with samp (maize) and beans, as well as steaks, burgers and salads.