South Africa

A reflection

Cape Town Jazz Festival – The Good, the Bad and the Indy Lounge

Cape Town Jazz Festival – The Good, the Bad and the Indy Lounge
Soweto Gospel Choir during the 20th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival on March 29, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. The Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) referred to as 'Africa's Grandest Gathering' is the largest music festival in sub-Saharan Africa. (Gallo Images / Dereck Green)

Jazz Fest is certainly all it’s cracked up to be: there’s fantastic music, great energy, and, as an aside, the ever-looming presence of all things Iqbal Survé.

For any jazz lover, the Cape Town Jazz Festival is definitely on the bucket list. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to get media accreditation for Africa’s Grandest Gathering. It was an exciting, daunting and at times, frustrating experience.

First, anyone who’s had their eye on the news is aware that the sponsors for the event – Independent Media and Ayo Technology – are linked to none other than the controversial businessman, Iqbal Survé. He’s been in hot water for, among other things, the R4.3-billion controversial investment made into Ayo Technology by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). Ayo Technology has been ordered to “pay back the money”, but allegedly, it doesn’t have the funds to do so. Which of course raises the question of how the indebted company (and Independent) were able to afford such a lavish event? But that’s a story for another day…

Second, Survé has made it clear that he doesn’t have the best feelings towards media houses that aren’t his own. Case in point is this quote from an open letter he published in February, where he barks back at allegations levelled against him and his companies by the Sunday Times.

It appears evident that the Sunday Times is leading a campaign to cripple Independent Media for its benefit. This is a campaign in which Sunday Times, Business Day, certain journalists and columnists from other media houses and external parties, are collaborating to create the perception of wrong-doing.”

So, at Jazz Fest it came as no surprise that Independent Media was given an exclusive lounge, with a red carpet and velvet rope entrance. Strangely, all accredited media were directed through the same main entrance, walked the same red carpet, and in my case, I was told by security that “sorry, you don’t have access to this lounge”.

So where’s our lounge?”

I’m not sure, ask the ushers,” he said.

The ushers had no clue where it was either. After 20 minutes of searching, and asking other equally lost journalists where the lounge was, we found it at the back of the venue, with no clear signage. But lo and behold, it had Ayo Technology written all over the entrance. Well played, Survé.

But, politics aside, Jazz Fest was well worth it. Friday had a smaller line-up of 19 artists and visibly fewer attendees. Two performers to note were Shekhinah and Chaka Khan.

Shekhinah, a South African music award-winning vocalist, left audiences begging for more. She showcased her unique vocal tone while performing hit tracks like Different, Suited and Back to the Beach. The Durban-born musician has recorded with established music-makers such as DJ Black Coffee and Jesse Clegg.

On the other hand, Chaka Khan, despite being the festival headliner (and having 10 Grammys under her belt), gave a less than stellar performance. Her often flawless vocal technique was riddled with pitchy and false notes and her microphone technique left much to be desired. But one can’t deny, the woman still looks incredible for her age.

The festival picked up on Saturday, with 22 acts hitting the five different stages and a far larger, more vibrant crowd in attendance.

Saturday saw Los Angeles based trio Moonchild taking the Manenberg stage. Despite being audibly ill, lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Amber Navran, put her heart and soul into the band’s debut performance in South Africa. Throughout the performance, she effortlessly switched between vocals, saxophone and flute. Fellow band members Max Bryx (on keys, saxophone and clarinet), and Andris Mattson on keys, trumpet and flugelhorn played out the band’s signature neo-soul inspired funk-pop sound. Despite performing hit songs like Cure and The List they paid homage to neo-soul legends like Jill Scott with A long walk.

Alfa Mist was another notable performer from Saturday’s programme. The London-based producer and composer graced the intimate Moses Molelekwa stage with his humble presence. Mist, whose career blossomed in 2015, performed songs from his EP’s Nocturne (2015) and Antiphon (2017). Mist, who combines Jazz with Hip Hop and elements of World Music delivered a mellow set which saw him rapping while playing the keys.

One thing the Cape Town International Jazz Festival cannot be faulted on, is its capability to bring together a diverse group of individuals for one common purpose – the love of jazz. The genre has often been seen as stereotypically “black music” and although the majority of the festival-goers were people of colour, it was heart-warming to see that we were not the only people present.

This diversity is also reflected in how, despite the festival being primarily focused on jazz (in what some may call its purest form), it included artists who’ve fused Jazz with other genres to create eclectic new sounds. DM

Sandisiwe Shoba is a reporter at Daily Maverick.

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