Review: CTIJF

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Erykah BaduNot many events can boast an attendance of  tourists, musicians, actors and politicians including our Vice President and President.  This weekend, the Cape Town International Convention Centre  became a melting pot – boiling in diversity, glamour and style – for the 15th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) is an event on many people’s bucket list,  and with an ever increasing fan base and crowd, it is only getting stronger and bigger.

Having closed off most of Cape Town’s foreshore to accommodate the capacity crowd of 34 000, additional stages had been swiftly erected on the outskirts which breathed a sense of “fresh air” to the festival itself.  And while the music nourished our souls, a setup of various food stalls nourished our grateful bellies.

CrowdThe stereotypical jazz musos – they of  the black beret and polo neck persuasion – were few and far between.  Instead every glance took in sky high heels, handsome suits, and high fashion – a clear indication of the wide appeal of jazz music, and of this festival in particular.

The only downside was the disappointing sound quality at times, from echoes to sound bouncing off walls to far too much bass.  After all, to truly grasp jazz, each strum of a guitar or strike of a piano key or blow of a trumpet needs to be absorbed clearly… and preferably through the ear rather than the body.

The outdoor Bassline stage held an interesting mix of artists.  Attracting a younger crowd, and dominated by hip hop from the likes of Youngsta and Reason, and house music from Black Coffee, the artists respected the raison d’etre of the festival infusing jazz to their sets either in a bass guitar or the occasional trumpet.  An introduction, maybe, of jazz to a new generation and a look, perhaps, into where the festival will be in years to come.

StageThe more serious fans were, as ever, spoilt for choice between the Rosies and the Moses Molelekwa stages, the former of which always charges a small extra fee for the joy of the extra-comfortable chairs and greatly superior sound quality.  It was at Rosies that the elusive, publicity shy, yet immensely talented Abdullah Ibrahim could be found on Saturday night.  His breathtaking performance was greeted by appreciative silence as his thrilled audience soaked in every strike of his piano, reminded again why Ibrahim is one of South Africa’s most respected artists.  A more relaxed atmosphere was met at the Moses Molelekwa stage, where one of the highlights was undoubtedly the 8 piece New York-based Snarky Puppy and our very own The Muffinz whose popularity had people being ushered out as the auditorium filled to capacity.

The larger of the outdoor stages, named after Basil “Manenberg”Coetzee, introduced us to more lively acts, such as the Senegalese Moh Dediouf and the Mozambican Frank Paco Art Ensemble, each with a distinct African sound to their music. Cape Town’s darling, Jimmy Nevis, had the younger females swooning while the beat-dropping Black Coffee entertained us for a second night.  Funk and soul came alive when 80’s band Shakatak performed, and regardless of their decades touring, they still produced an energy and liveliness to rival the younger bands.

The central and more mainstream Kippies stage burst at the seams at each performance held.  From ‘First Daughter of Soul’ Lalah Hathaway, via smooth jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum to the incomparable Mi Casa, the crowds gathered in droves to see their favourites perform.  Another 80s British band, headliners Level 42, relived their hits ‘Running in the Family’ and ‘Lessons In Love’ – surefire hits amongst the newer material, while  Jimmy Dludlu and his band The Shape of Strings to Come paid tribute to South African classics from artists such as Hugh Masekela, Jonathan Butler and even the late great Brenda Fassie.

JazzOne of the most anticipated acts was of course that of Erykah Badu who wrapped up the festival on Saturday night.  Despite a jam-packed two days, the crowd was buzzing with anticipation throughout the 30 minute delay before Badu’s set.  Beautiful, soulful, and more than a little eccentric, she was worth every minute and we begged her to go ‘On & On’.  And she did, ignoring the stage hands’ pleads,  and to those last soulful strains the crowd kept dancing until the early hours of the morning.

Lauren Jullies

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2014 took place at the CTICC on 28 & 29 March 2014.

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