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Take an inspiriting journey to jazz in the Karoo town of Prince Albert

Take an inspiriting journey to jazz in the Karoo town of Prince Albert
Kritikom Koppie Theatre where the opening of the inaugural Journey to Jazz will take place from Friday, 5 May. (Photo: Prince Albert Tourism)

From 3 – 7 May 2023, Prince Albert will host the inaugural Journey to Jazz festival for a celebration of music and community that resounds up into the Swartberg mountains. 

Music, says journalist and broadcaster Brenda Sisane, has “always found a way to unite people”.

“The jazz genre, specifically, has a knack for storytelling and is a style that is recognised and celebrated throughout the world.” 

It is under this banner that the Journey to Jazz festival embarks on its first-ever event, where Prince Albert will host musicians and musicophiles alike for a weekend that celebrates art and community.

Sisane, the creative director for the 2023 festival, tells Maverick Life that she looks forward to “hearing a new sound emerge from blending local sonic influences with the world renown magic of jazz improvisation”. 

Come Friday, 5 May, songs will ring out as the Journey to Jazz musical programme begins (the festival itself starts the Wednesday before). The shows are smaller and intimate, welcoming guests into the heart of Prince Albert’s cherished spaces. 

Throughout the weekend, guests will have the opportunity to experience music from the likes of The Mike Rossi Project, Belgian father and son team Celle and Adriaan Adriaensen, Cape Town’s Derek Gripper, the Amanda Tiffin Trio, Hassan’adas and more. On Sunday, the festival will conclude with a joyful finale in the People’s Concert. 

“I look forward to losing myself in the laid-back nature of the town where everything is a short distance away and where the performances are intimate and heartwarming,” Sisane says.  

Prince Albert, Journey to Jazz

A view of the small rural town of Prince Albert. (Photo: Louis Botha / Supplied)

The festival was born out of a love for music and a desire to welcome people into this joy in Prince Albert. For almost a decade, the Prince Albert Community Trust (Pact) has held concerts and festivals featuring local artists at the Rondomskrik family park, all run by crews of young people in the area. 

“Journey to Jazz was conceived by the understanding that music and jazz as a genre is a common global language that brings people into community and connection. Music and the performing arts have been one of the main drivers of change for youth and children in Prince Albert over the past seven years [… and] it was felt that the next step should be taken: to be brave and to open the Trust and its Hope warrior youth team to a bigger stage, literally a festival with global artists that would stretch the town, the capabilities and the vision, in order to bring growth and opportunity,” Ingrid Wolfaardt, founder and executive trustee of Pact, tells Maverick Life. 

“My personal hope is that this is the first of this sort of festival that will bring new life, new opportunities, open doors, create connections and networks that will enhance the lives of young people and children, giving hope and a sense of good future for them. We hope to see skill sets grow from a humble beginning to one of excellence over time that can be mobile and transportable into other areas and spaces; we hope that the whole town will benefit and believe if it goes well with our children and youth it will go well with Prince Albert as a town and community and therefore it is everyone’s business to partner, do their bit, it is to everyone’s advantage.”

A cyclist on the Swartberg Pass, which links Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn

A cyclist on the Swartberg Pass, which links Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn, which was officially opened in 1888. (Photo: Gallo Images / GO! / Samantha Reinders)

Come for the music, stay for the charm of the Karoo

While the jazz programme kicks off on Friday, 5 May, all the charm of this town will be on display for the week. Nestled under the shadow of the Swartberg mountain, Prince Albert has long welcomed artists into the creative nerve centre of the Karoo.

“Prince Albert has great little eateries, creative studios where artists do work using natural resources like mohair, olive oil, cheese making as well as ostrich egg jewellery making amongst its interesting products,” Sisane says.

From Wednesday, 3 May, the town will begin ramping up for a weekend of live music with an offering of local experiences, from sunrise yoga facing the Swartberg mountains and guided walks to a screening of Victor van Aswegen’s documentary Sculpting This Earth and various culinary workshops in Prince Albert’s eateries. 

And while the town is bursting from the seams with creative energy, the natural beauty of the surroundings is not ignored, but revered. The Swartberg Mountain Complex that rises up above Prince Albert has history that runs deep into the fabric of South Africa, and as a result, has been named part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Cape Floral Kingdom. 

Already, before the maiden festival lights up the town, there is an anticipation for what comes next. 

“I hope the idea of a jazz economy is realised whereby the town grows a significant footprint using this festival and where young people leap into the world elevated by this music and its ethos of collaboration and humanity,” Sisane says. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Prince Albert — The creative nerve centre of the Karoo

For Wolfaardt, the festival is a “humble start to something new”, but she is hopeful that it continues to highlight all Prince Albert has to offer, and in a way that grows and benefits the community. This is also a chance for the town to welcome in more tourists, and Wolfaardt is particularly keen to develop tourism that honours and celebrates the “environment and the natural assets of the town plus its cultural richness”. 

“This is the sort of tourism we would want to see grow. We hope this festival will introduce people to what makes the Karoo and especially Prince Albert magical and memorable,” she says.

Sunlight makes the rocks glow at the Kritikom Koppie Theatre in Prince Albert.

Sunlight makes the rocks glow at the Kritikom Koppie Theatre in Prince Albert.

Land artists Anni Snyman, PC van Rensburg, and Izak Vollgraaf are the masterminds behind the Kritikom Koppie Theatre rising from the rock. Image: Prince Albert Tourism

Land artists Anni Snyman, PC van Rensburg and Izak Vollgraaf are the masterminds behind the Kritikom Koppie Theatre rising from the rock. Image: Prince Albert Tourism

The Prince Albert NG Kerk , Journey to Jazz

The Prince Albert NG Kerk where some performances for the Journey to Jazz festival will take place. (Photo: Journey to Jazz / Supplied)

“It is about the music but it is also not about the music, there is a bigger agenda, to give hope, to break open our often isolated community to others and to the world, which will bring life and opportunity that will have a long term positive impact on our community going forward.

“This is an intimate, personal, human connection and opening up of thinking and one’s spirit to the singular beauty of the Karoo and its people. We hope folk will leave and be enriched on a deeper level. A greater sense of awareness and appreciation for this region and its people. DM/ML

Journey to Jazz performances take place on Friday, 5th May; Saturday, 6th May; and Sunday, 7th May 2023; in Prince Albert. More information can be found on the Journey to Jazz website.

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