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Cape Town International Jazz Festival @ 13

Youngster practice at Gugulethu

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is now in its teens. This year, the festival now described as “Africa’s grandest gathering” turned 13-years. It is certainly a definitive and beautiful period to be in.

It is going to be interesting to see how the Festival maneuvers around its adolescences period. In popular culture, the adolescent characteristics changes are attributed to physical changes and raging hormones. Will we witness any further physical changes and what raging hormones shall come to play?

According to the Wikipedia, “adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and psychological human development. The period of adolescence is most closely associated with the teenage years, although its physical, psychological and cultural expressions can begin earlier and end later. A thorough understanding of adolescence in society depends on information from various perspectives but within all of these perspectives, adolescence is viewed as a transitional period between childhood and adulthood whose cultural purpose is the preparation of children for adult roles.

It will be a transitional period that perhaps the organizers might not need to considering that the Cape Town Jazz Festival has already gone through one. In its infancy, the Festival was part of the North Sea Jazz Festival franchise. It ran as the Cape Town North Sea Jazz Festival and a number of these foundational, genetic materials such as having 4—stages, have been maintained.

Upcoming saxophonist from Gugulethu

Rashid Lombard, Billy Domingo, Eva Domingo and many others who have been running the show might feel that the Festival has grown. That even maybe its “physical, psychological and cultural expressions” began earlier, almost immediately they were weaned. In fact, they might argue that it is already performing some of the envisaged “adult roles.” It is true. A quick glance at the roles the Festival has been performing since it was weaned, have been nothing short of “adult roles.”

The Festival lineup has grown immensely and attracts the who-is-who in the world of jazz music in South Africa, across Africa and internationally. Name any artist of repute and chances are that he/she might have experienced Cape Town. It is has mellowed itself into the hearts of jazz musicians from around the world and there are several musicians who have performed there several times. It is magical and once bitten by the Capetonian jazz bug, many have found it irresistible to come back.

There have been some special shows that tap into the international trends as well as the local South African scene. This year, the Festival offered South Africans an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives and times of the late Mama Miriam Makeba.

Bra Hugh Masekela at the 2012 CTIJF

Legendary trumpeter Bra Hugh Masekela teamed up with Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola for a tribute show made its debut at the Rio Loco Festival in Toulouse, France in June 2010. It has since gone to other festivals in Barcelona, London, Berlin and arrived in Makeba’s homeland to a rapturous reception. It will without doubt remain a major talking point to this year’s jazz festivities.

The Festival has not just offered a platform for the old and who-is-who. It has been a place where the young have expressed themselves. At this year’s Festival young and newer voices that thrilled jazz enthusiasts include the recent revelation in the South African music scene, Zahara, Zamajobe, Jean Grae, Gabriel Tchiema, Andre Petersen Quintet and others.

Zahara- recent revelation, who has broken numerous music records in the South African music scene

The Festival has entrenched itself into the South African economy. Last year, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival contributed close KES 4, 980, 000, 000 to the Western Cape economy and created over 2700 jobs.

The South African Ministry of Arts and Culture has developed a vision of what is now referred to as “Mzansi Golden Economy” for expansion and growth within the cultural and creative industries. The Jazz Festival is now seen as major pillar to the Mzansi Golden Economy vision.

The Festival has established an elaborate training and capacity building tradition that has benefitted many beyond Cape Town and South Africa. Training is carried out through initiatives such as the Arts and Culture Focus Schools initiative, Arts and Culture School’s Skills Development Programme, the Music Business Workshop and Jazz and Urban Music Master Classes, The Intyholo Jazz Development Workshop, the popular Arts Journalism Programme, facilitated by Mail and Guardian Arts Journalist Gwen Ansell, a ‘Mentoring Arts Journalists’ course facilitated by Fiona Lloyd, and more recently, a Photographic Workshop.

“We have tried to make education a tradition of our own,” Rashid Lombard, the Festival Director, noted in his Festival notes. “Over the years, it has evolved to the point where recently a journalist asked me, ‘Are you running a festival or an art school?’”

He added: “Back in the ‘80s we used to say, ‘Each one teach one,’ and today it still applies. We now offer a week-long training programme, carefully designed, with some of the best jazz and art educators. Some of these courses are fully international, involving the renowned Berklee College of Music and Juilliard School. Young musicians are learning technique, theory and the mental attitude so necessary for live performance. There are few things more exciting than seeing young musicians rise to the occasion and playing better than they have before.”

We witnessed this when we visited the Intyholo Jazz Development programme where this year, the programme moved to Gugulethu, a township with a proud history in the struggle. Here, youngsters from the outlaying townships attended a four day workshop. They were taught by established musicians like Adam Glasser and trainers from the renowned Berklee College.

Young, enthusiastic saxophone players, drummers, bassists and trumpeters were taken through the steps. Their glowing eyes and smiles as they were cheered on by their peers in the audience left no doubt that they were enjoying what they were doing. However, it was important to note that the seeds of growing the next Bra Hugh Masekela, Mama Miriam Makeba, Jonas Gwangwa, Auntie Dorothy Masuka and others had been planted, watered and tended.

Bra Hugh Masekela at the 2012 CTIJF where he teamed up with Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola for a tribute show

The baton is changing hand. The next generation of musicians and artists, journalists, managers, and others is learning and getting ready. And therein lies the transitional period for the organizers. Rashid Lombard and Billy Domingo have done well since they were weaned as toddlers. They have steered the Festival to greater heights. They have remained with the Festival but in these adolescence years, they too have manage the transitional period so that when they take their well earned retirement, the baton would have been passed on smoothly.

James Ingram at the 2012 CTIJF


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