One of the most eclectic sessions and collectives in Cape Town, Jam That Session, recently turned a year old. LIVE caught up with Andy Mkosi, one of the brains behind this series of events. It’s been a great journey and not one without any struggles.
LIVE: What is Jam That Session?
Andy: JTS is a movement that creates a platform for creatives of all kinds be it your rapper, be it your photographer, designer etc. Through JTS, we wanna establish an atmosphere where creatives can meet, network and gather contacts. Creatives can work beyond their comfort zone.
LIVE: Who exactly are the members of this collective?
LIVE: What were your aims/goals when you started JTS?
Andy: Honestly, when we had our first session, we didn’t know it would grow to be this complex. We were just having a session at that time. Personally, I was just frustrated ‘cause of not getting gigs. So I thought instead of waiting, let’s create something of our own.
LIVE: What challenges have you faced so far?
Andy: A lot. Not a lot actually but mainly because we started off with nothing in terms of finances. It was just a matter of Obie and I meeting each other half way financially to book Ragazzi (the first venue that we hosted JTS at). And we didn’t have any source of income; I was working at Bush Radio at that time and I wasn’t getting paid that much, Obie was a student at that time (still is) and then we clubbed in 50-50 to hire out the venue and people paid at the door. The difficulties we facing at the moment is that the artists we book want to get paid but at the moment we can’t afford to pay everyone because we are still struggling financially.
LIVE: So you do pay some artists?
Andy: Yes. What we do is we pay DJs. We have one DJ that we really love; Ruthy Pearl. We pay her and we pay for the venue.
LIVE: Can you convince me that this is not exploitation of the artists?
Andy: It’s not exploitation of the artists because when we ask someone to perform, we let them know that we are not going to pay them but we will provide transport where we can meet them halfway. We make it a point that they are given refreshments, they stay with us during the session as comfortable as possible so in a sense that you don’t feel like you being used.
LIVE: Is JTS sustaining itself? Are you guys even making a profit?
Andy: [Laughs] At the moment, no, we are not making much of a profit. As I said, we are surviving. It’s a matter of us digging out of our own pockets; we don’t have a money fountain that pours out cash every time we need it. Sometimes we approach companies or brands to help us out. But because, we just started, we are a year old, some don’t take us seriously. I believe it’s all about who you know in the game so we still establishing our contacts and we still surviving as a company and making things happen out of our own pockets.
LIVE: What have been your biggest highlights so far?
Andy: So far, hosting King Nova (a poet form Jo’burg) who came down to Cape Town during the Jazz Festival weekend and she popped in and performed a piece for us. I think people who attended that session didn’t know who she was until the next morning when they googled her because her performance was outstanding. We’ve had the likes of Sakhile Moleshe (who’s a vocalist for Goldfish) performing for us. We’ve also had Loyiso Mkhize (painter). We’ve had…there was a time when we had our session at the Rooftop. I think that was supposed to be the biggest in terms of attendance but the venue has an attendance limit of 150 people and people came in numbers but got disappointed ‘cause they couldn’t get in. I think that was a highlight because that’s when we realized that we had a huge following and people like what we doing and want to support us.
LIVE: You guys have been labeled as a “cool kid” movement. What exactly is your market/vibe?
Andy: I’ll be honest with you. I told Obie (because she’s not from Cape Town) when we started that most events in Cape Town are attended by artists – so it’s a rapper watching another rapper so instead of appreciating what you doing on stage I’d be looking at you mean mugging. So we thought why not market the event to people who’ll appreciate and be willing to buy your work? So basically our market is a typical fan, not “cool kids”. Yes, a lot of “cool kids” attend the session but may be that’s the average fan in Cape Town right now. May be the fan is that middle class kid who lives in Pinelands, of course there’s middle class kids in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha. We do promote that we want it to be diverse, it’s very diverse I have to say. We have people coming from everywhere in Cape Town. So our market is basically the middle class kid – your student from UCT, CPUT, UWC etc. Sometimes we even have parents attending which is a rare thing in Cape Town.
LIVE: So what types of artists do you guys put on in order to attract that market?
Andy: It goes back to the team because the type of people who are part of Jam That Session are people who are out there and making moves in marketing. I have my following, Ntsika has his following, Obie has her following. I believe that the market developed from that. The artists that we book aren’t necessarily artists that are followed by “cool kids” or whatever type of crowd. I think it goes back to who the team is made up of.
LIVE: Last time I checked, you guys were embarking on a campus tour but it somewhat faded. What happened?
Andy: We started at CPUT. That was the only campus that was willing to give us a platform to promote Jam That Session. The whole idea of having a campus tour was to let people know that there’s a session of this kind and let other artists know so we can accommodate them. We had trouble getting platforms at other campuses; UWC and Pentech still haven’t replied and UCT, they wanted us to pay a certain amount in order to book a spot to promote our thing. Red Bull was behind us but the load was on us to get confirmation from these campuses.
LIVE: Could you let the artist who’s reading this how they can perform at JTS.
Andy: Email (jamthatsession@gmail) your artist biography, one of your songs and a picture of yourself (so we know who we dealing with). We will listen to your song and if we feel if it’s good quality, we’ll contact you.
LIVE: Have you ever put an artist on the line-up but ended up regretting it because they gave a whack performance?
Andy: A lot of times. A lot of times, to a sense that we are cutting down the number of artists we have on the line up. We now have a mock session where we pick like five artists from the emails and they come perform to the crowd that’s there and if the crowd responds positively, then that’s legit for having you on the official session.
LIVE: If you could change anything about Jam That Session, what would it be?
Andy: I think the fact that we don’t have sponsors and people who support us financially because we are unable to pay the people that helped us out make Jam That Session happen – the artists especially. If it wasn’t for the artists then there wouldn’t be Jam That Session – imagine having a session with no one on stage.
LIVE: Speaking of touring, how was the Grahamstown Art Festival?
Andy: [Laughs] We went there thinking because we are big in Cape Town, we’d be big in Grahamstown but little did we know that we are going to another area, another market. We went there at a time when it was buzzing but we didn’t physically market the event and when we got there, there were posters of various events that were happening and it was such a shock. We went there with nothing but a dream in our pockets, trust in our hearts and faith in our heads and when we got there, only a few people attended our sessions. It got to a point where we had to market by word of mouth. People didn’t wanna pay at the door. But I’m happy that we went there because people in Grahamstown know about Jam That Session so yeah, we’ll do it again.
LIVE: What is next for Jam That Session?
Andy: We would like to tour the coast line of South Africa from Cape Town to Eastern Cape and spread the vibe. We still want to create a mixtape featuring all the artists we’ve worked with for live performances. It’s something that was supposed to be done last year already but due to some glitches, it’s been on hold.
Happy first birthday to Jam That Session!