14 years ago, espAfrika organised the first Cape Town International Jazz Festival – I was 6 years old and being scolded for insisting on cleaning my nostrils with my finger whilst my cool cousins planned their outfits, which artists they would see and where the after party was at. Finally at 20, it was not only my first time at the 14th Cape Town International Jazz Festival (late bloomer- I know) but I had the awesome opportunity to rub shoulders with Zolani of Freshly Ground as we wooed to classic jams by Miss Jill Scott and was humbled by Thandiswa Mazwai – The Mother of all Jazz Festivals to date.
Thandiswa Mazwai blessed the Kippies Stage by burning impepho, opened her mouth in ululation and the devoted audience roared ecstatically. She introduced each band member with the respect, dignity and humility of a proud mother.
“Don’t make me feel like Michael Jackson, please. Screaming ‘I love you, I love you’”jokes u’Mazwai as the crowd screams their affection.
When you can feel an artist bellow from the gut of each pore on their body! Thandiswa began singing ‘Nizalwa Ngobani’ and my heart wrenched at the sudden thought of a Jazz Festival without her! Further listening to the chart topping ‘Zabalaza’ I am comforted by her reassuring presence that never will this come to pass. After hearing her voice echo through the what I have now dubbed ‘House Of Mazwai’; I got an earful from the kids of the Arts & Culture Focus Super Band.
With The Roots inspired drum beats; the Arts & Culture tribute captured the hearts of the young and old alike when they played a n Errol Dyers cover, ‘Majita’, on the outdoor Manenburg stage. This proved them to be a force to be reckoned with. Many may feel that jazz music is a genre lost to the archaic days of our parents but smooth sax playing and strumming of both base and acoustic guitars by these cool kids proved that this too is a myth.
On Friday, 5th April, at 22:15 – Over 90% of the crowd sat crossed legged on the Kippies floor waiting patiently (then soon irritably) for Zonke’s performance whilst the technicians ensured the sound was perfect for the South African, sultry diva. The hosts introduced keyboard player William Mokora and Drummer Damian Schmidt then the crowd leaped to their feet when Zonke finally pranced on stage – 20 min behind schedule. Ok,Shap!
The Brand New Heavies stepped up with a bang to support all the prepublicity attained. They came together again to share that nostalgic acid jazz music that got the crowd booging and head bobbing till the end. When asked at a pre-event conference whether they were nervous about releasing their album in May after 6 years; drummer Jan said, “…just because you don’t have a record people think you have fallen off the face of the Earth. But in actual fact you have just been too busy moving around the face of the Earth” Wise man with good music to back it up.
With a safari trip to India ambiance and lead vocalist covered in tribal painting from head to toe; DKanzam of Dubmarine carried the crowd through the dance hall, afro pop and techno pop fusion with nostalgic punk saxophone tunes adding more than just a dash of jazz to this keleidoscope of sound. Dubmarine performed at the CTIJF through the support of the Australian High Commission to showcase the diversity of Australian culture in South Africa in aim of bridging the gap through creative arts.
On other news. I * heart * Trenton & Free Radicals but the lack of support shown at the Bassline stage did not help the obvious confusion of the 5 audience members in the introduction to this new genre (they must have been living under a rock). They did however start swaying their hips when electric guitarist started strumming from his heart and long time friend (20 years – give or take a few) Ben Sharpa joined them on stage to add a much needed kick. It worked – until he stepped off the stage again. Eish.
The second day of the festival – Saturday, 6 April – proved to be a hectically dizzy night with PHFAT opening their performance by screaming, “You cant say f***k on the radio!!!” at the Bassline stage. Having never heard their music before (late bloomer, remember) it was quiet a mouth full to be greeted by hip hop, dub, bassline rappers who are are clearly about pushing the controversial bar. Mike and Disco (vocalists) have found a way to pair the hectic lyrics with free-flowing ‘mainstream’ beats produced by Narch to get you bobbing your head. If your a fan of American band Gym Class heroes then you would feel right at home.
Hip Hop, Raggae, Drum Base beats paired with electryifying visuals. But what more do you want?!
Ben Sharpa and Pure Solid packed out the Bassline stage with their 4th dimension songs that seemed to almost call out to the masses from all the other stages to come and join in the transcending. Whilst DPlanet kept the beats tight, Spooky displayed solid visuals of Steve Biko, police brutality and sketched prints and pyramids flashing as Ben Sharpa rapped about fallen and conquering heroes to create conscious elevation. Yes, the performance was that trippy. Imagine a trans party – on steroids. Hectic.
And on the swagger side of life – Khuli Chana and AKA tag teamed the Bassline stage as the last act of the Festival. I am not a swagger-hop fan but after the Head Honcho party at The Old Biscuit Mill in December 2012 – I was super keen to see Mr Khuli do his thing – needless to say, I left with my tail between my legs after AKA screamed into the mic, ‘Boso ke mang??’ Really?? In this day and age, with Khuli Chana hiding himself in all black and looking like AKA’s hype man – then your gonna ask me ‘Whoe the boss’?? Tonight? Not you, buddy. I was very shocked to see a lot of middle-aged audience members (crossing my toes I didn’t bump into my friends mom!) It was a very confusing time of the festival for me.
Due to the technical difficulties on the Manenberg stage – the Robert Glasper Experiernce ft MF Doom turned into a bit of a hack for audience members who had to sit through half of the show-meets-sound-check in confusion. Casey Benjamin did try by all means to keep the crowd motivated but it was all a bit distracting as I did not know if it was part of the show – it being my first time and all.
One performance that had no difficulty in getting the masses to sing along to every single jam was the lovely Miss Jill Scott. Whilst the host was announcing that Kippies was at packed capacity, the crowd began booing in uncontrollable anticipation and chanting her name relentlessly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome on stage, Jill Scott!!” And the crowd went ballistic!
You could see the excited energy vibrating from the crowd as she prepared the crowd by saying, “HOLD UP! We’ve travelled from far and we may have lost our minds. Can we go a little crazy??” on the audiences approval she broke into the song, ‘Is it the way…’ The back up singers supported her in swazz; wearing classic yellow and black Adidas sneakers and she wore royal blue Marylin Monroe, suede, sky-scraping stilettos. Yep, they stepped out in style.
‘Till the next festival…ciao!