Review: Cape Town International Jazz Festival

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The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is becoming something of a pilgrimage. Where else in the world can jazz lovers enjoy a stellar line-up of the world’s best artists under one roof?

Now in its 14th year, The Cape Town International Jazz Festival continues to grow in popularity. This year’s event attracted a capacity crowd of 34 000 people, which has surely made organizer ESP Afrika anxious to see the commencement of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) expansion.  The venue manages to squeeze five stages (Kippies, Manenburg, Moses Molelekwa, Rosies and Bassline) into every available space, even utilizing a nearby park, which necessitates road closures around the precinct. Even so, moving between stage to stage was a tight squeeze, especially later in the evening between headline acts.

The festival is a celebration of jazz music and once again featured more than 40 top musicians, both local and international.  This year was no exception, with the highly regarded Jimmy Dludlu headlining alongside pianist Robert Glasper and US soul diva Jill Scott. Dludlu delighted the crowd by inviting Judith Sephuma to join him on stage.

Cape Town legend Errol Dyers added a taste of Goema to the mix, while drum maestro Louis Moholo was accompanied by yet another Cape Town son, Kyle Shepherd, who has a large following himself. But it was the dulcet tones of city girl Auriol Hays on the Moses Molelekwa stage who truly represented Cape Town, wowing the audience with her signature jazz soul sound.

The sultry sounds of jazz could be heard echoing in the passageways all night, adding to the festive atmosphere and keeping heads nodding and hips swinging. But for all the trumpets and saxophones, there was also plenty of contemporary music on the menu, giving the event a real music festival vibe. Highlights included the catchy radio tunes of reggae outfit Trenton and Free Radical on the Bassline stage, who most people will know for their hit single, Tomorrow’s Day featuring Faithless frontman Maxi Jazz. Another noteworthy Bassline act was local electro rappers, PHFat, who performed an energetic set to a small audience of loyal fans.

One act I couldn’t quite get my head around was Australian electro group, Dubmarine.  Vocalists D-Kazman and Billie Weston appeared on stage covered in colourful paint, which rendered D-Kazman effectively intimidating, but the effect was less successful on Weston, who seemed a cross between Yolandi Vi$$er and a parrot from Angry Birds Rio. But for all the make-up, the group gave an impressive performance to a full house.

Other artists included the beautiful Ceu from Brazil, crowd-pleasers The Buena Vista Social Club, Mi Casa, who performed to a capacity crowd, and acid jazz outfit The Brand New Heavies from the UK. In fact, out of the 40 artists performing, nearly half were international, making the ticket price well worth it. Other than the music segment, there was also an exhibition, a photographic tribute to Alf Khumalo, as well as numerous sundry workshops and initiatives sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture.

They say jazz is where the heart is. If that’s true, then Cape Town is the heart of South African jazz, as evidenced by the thousands of music lovers who thronged to the Mother City this past weekend. With the looming expansion of the CTICC on the cards, the jazz festival can only grow. Who knows, one of these days it could become the world’s foremost international jazz event, and with that growth, would come Cape Town’s official title as Africa’s jazz capital. We can only hold our breath and see.

Sally Fink

The 14th Cape Town International Jazz Festival took place from 5-6 April 2013 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

See photographs from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival here.

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