Like the ‘Joy of Jazz’ Festival which made loud musical statement last August in Jo’burg, South Africa, and which was witnessed by SUNDAY LEADERSHIP’s JUWE OLUWAFEMI, now he writes that jazz enthusiasts no longer have to hold their breath this year, as the final announcement of artists for the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival was finally made last week at Katzy’s in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Milking from the resounding success story recorded last year - from the four days of sexy creativity, excitement, self expression and warmth which drew thousands of jazz fans both from Johannesburg and from further afield, this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival has been announced and LEADERSHIP SUNDAY can authoritatively disclose that it will take place on March 30 and 31.
At the ‘Joy of Jazz’ Festival which held at the six precincts of Newtown in South Africa last August, not a few fans who flocked to the event, not from South Africa alone, but including other neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique and even from African countries further away like Nigeria, Kenya and Angola, it was indeed a season to worship at the feet of Jazz legends. And truly, people came en masse to Jo’burg to celebrate Jazz.
And for music buffs, and jazz connoisseurs who made the pilgrimage last year, for this scheduled Cape Town International Jazz Festival, it is almost certain they will return by March, for the event which is spinning into a somewhat annual ritual.
Already in its 13th year, the festival continues to titillate South African audiences with the finest in local and international performers at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). The already sign on jazz acts reflect the festival's philosophy of broadening audience's perspectives of what is understood as 'jazz'.
A massive affirmation regarding the artistic and cultural importance of the jazz festival was President Jacob Zuma's mention of the festival in his State of the Nation speech last year. Over 34 000 tourists are attracted to the festival annually. Mr Paul Mashatile, Minister of Arts and Culture while commenting on the relevance of the festival noted that, “The Cape Town International Jazz Festival does not only expose audiences to a wide array of the best international and local music, the event also contributes to providing a larger skills base in the creative sector which helps in sustaining the creative industries in South Africa.”
Aside from contributing a significant amount to South Africa's economic and tourism industries, young journalists are nurtured in the annual Arts Journalism Program led by jazz critic Gwen Ansell.
Celebrating not only musical creativity, it does celebrate visual creativity too, even as the Duotone Photographic Exhibition remains another annual fixture of the festival. Every year, it commemorates prolific jazz photography.
One of the most exciting elements to the festival is the annual free Community Concert which brings thousands together in the centre of Cape Town on Green Market Square. This year the concert will take place on March 28th, the Wednesday preceding the festival. The line-up is usually a teaser of some of the local and international acts that will feature at the festival.
The festival had over the years garnered huge provincial support from the Western Cape. In a release sent to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY over the event, Minister Alan Winde, MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism for the Western Cape says, "The Western Cape Government is pleased to be associated with an event of this calibre that draws artists from across the globe and we look forward to yet another spectacular show.”
In fact, Patricia De Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town echoes this sentiment when he notes, "This musical celebration epitomises what this administration aims to do in building an inclusive city by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds throughout the city and the rest of the country to enjoy the musical talents of local artists and renowned international superstars. The City will continue to support this festival to promote the heritage of jazz music and ensure that it continues to attract large crowds."
The gold sponsor for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2012 is the Department of Arts and Culture. Other sponsors include Provincial Government of the Western Cape, The City of Cape Town, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Oude Meester, Hansa Pilsner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Cape Town Partnership and the Western Cape Education Department.
And as jazz buffs begin a countdown to Cape Town Jazz Festival, stakeholders and observers say, the robust expected audience will be thrilled to see legendary South African trumpeter and bandleader, Hugh Masekela return to the festival and present a special project for the first time on local shores.
Masekela will rally up an army of musical giants for 'MAMA AFRICA' - a tribute to the great songbird, Miriam Makeba. Masekela as musical director joins forces with a powerhouse trio of vocalists in the form of Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola. The show made its debut at the Rio Loco Festival in Toulouse, France in June 2010 and has since travelled to Barcelona, London and Berlin.
Interestingly, Masekela won't be the only South African legend on stage this year. Dorothy Masuka will also perform at the festival. Masuka rose to fame in the 50s as a struggling singer alongside the likes of Masekela and Makeba.
If the edgiest music that is coming out of South Africa at the moment is hip-hop, then the festival has been spot on with the talent this year. So, “If it is music, sweet music, let it play," which is the philosophy of Jamaican-hailing reggae band, ‘Third World’ - one of the headliner acts aimed at bridging these divides, then the expected crowd can be sure of what to expect.
Originally formed in 1973 in Kingston, Third World has over its three-decade spanning career interwoven subtleties of funk, soul, R&B and rock into reggae music, releasing 23 albums in total.
Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist and producer, Marcus Miller is another major artist who is expected to headline the festival. While Millers' main instrument is bass, his prolific work started in the late 70s. He has worked as an arranger, songwriter, film score composer, keyboardist, clarinetist and saxophonist. A live set from Miller often include an odd mix of anything from ‘The Talking Heads’ to John Coltrane and The Stylistics.
Also signed on for the big event is Harlem born songwriter and vocalist, Patti Austin and her trio who will tour her Grammy award-winning jazz program which includes hits ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Avant Gershwin. Austin has a legacy of 16 solo albums which cross musical boundaries. Her road to success was paved early, as she made her debut at the Apollo Theatre in 1954 at the age of four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was five.
And completing the headliners of international performers is Kansas City-born vocalist, Kevin Mahogany. New Yorker Magazine has labeled him "The Standout jazz vocalist of his generation." Starting off his career as an instrumentalist, Mahogany has focused his career on being a jazz vocalist in the style of Joe Williams. Currently he runs his own label called Mahogany Jazz.
The legendary Quincy Jones is responsible for discovering and introducing Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez to the festival organisers. LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the impromptu performance of Rodriguez in Jones’ lounge for organisers - Rashid Lombard and Billy Domingo convinced the pair that Rodriguez was a natural fit for the festival. Jones says of the event, "I'm thrilled that Alfredo has been given a platform to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. I think he will find surprising musical similarities between his roots in Cuba and his South African experience."
Other international performers at the festival will include Chinese minimalist solo pianist Xia Jia and French bossa nova meets nu-wave act Nouvelle Vague. Joining them is Allen Stone, a storytelling guitarist and singer from Washington who could be best described as a funky white boy with soul. Angolan afro-funk singer and composer Gabriel Tchiema completes the line-up of international acts.
There is a huge focus on African roots and rhythms on the festival line-up this year. Pietermaritzburg born saxophonist Steve Dyer has been on the South African music scene for some time but he has constantly evolved musically. His latest project, Ubuntu Music will be released as an album this year and performed live at the festival for the first time. In a similar vein, South African bassist Herbie Tsoaeli, who has performed with some of S.A's greatest jazz musicians, will be presenting his long-awaited debut album African Time.
Harmonica player Adam Glasser has spent significant time between South Africa and the United Kingdom, collaborating with major artists from both countries such as Dudu Pukwana and Toots Thielemens. Glasser will present his latest album Mzansi at the festival.
Old school glitz and glamour diva, Sophia Foster, one of S.A's sisters of song also joins the line-up. Another kind of diva, ex-fashion stylist Lindiwe Suttle initiated her career as a vocalist with RusNerwich and The Collective Imagination in 2008. Now Suttle has returned from Berlin with a more electronic focus on her debut album Kamikaze Art, courtesy of engineer Dave Kutch whose previous work includes Al Green and Alicia Keys.