International Jazz Festival in Cape Town, South Africa

jazz1Once a year in South Africa, the hottest Jazz Musicians from all over the world gather to play the coolest music that traces it roots back to the West African and Western music traditions of the 19th century.  Jazz has evolved over the years into a wider definition including folk, electronic and even hip-hop styles.  You’ll find all that and more during the Jazz Festival in Cape Town.

jazz2Live on five stages at the Cape Town Convention Center, over 40 divergent groups of musicians perform their unique vision of Jazz.  The festival runs two nights and there is truly something for everyone.  Traditional, world beat, fusion, hip-hop, it’s all here in abundance.

It’s hard to describe the feel of the festival.  Intimate and cool, crowded and hot, pulsating, flashing, soothing, relaxing, a beat you can feel more than hear, sensuous, black and white, colored lasers, enough energy to power the world!  It’s all that and more.  It is truly an experience.

Since there are five different stages running at the same time, you can sit through an entire set of any given group or constantly wander from one venue to the next soaking up a smorgasbord of sights and sounds until the senses are overloaded.  You won’t be disappointed!

Some of the theaters are intimate tiered seating and some are huge open spaces filled with throngs of people pulsing with the beat of the music and lights.  One theater is outdoors near the food court where you can sit down to a hot meal where you’ll find yourself subconsciously chewing to the beat.

jazz3There are top headliners like the Joe Sample Trio with Randy Crawford and local favorites Jack Dejohnette with Sibongile Khumalo and Ladysmith Black Mambazo that strained the capacity of even the biggest hall.  Some of the performers were lesser known in Africa like Leela James but after her performance that packed the big room, she will soon be a household name.

jazz4One of the big surprises was Yehya Khalil and his Egyptian Jazz Fusion.  Normally you wouldn’t associate Egypt with Jazz but their performance was mesmerizing.  The organizers do an outstanding job of recruiting talent from all over the world and giving them a showcase unlike any other.  They may have arrived in Cape Town as unknowns but they departed with a huge following.

The crowds were as diverse as the musicians.  Devotees came from all over the world.  While the majority of the attendees were from Africa, there were groups from the US, UK, Russia, and all over Europe.  The variety of languages being spoken was even more extensive than the music being played.

jazz5You wouldn’t expect to find a group called Hip Hop Pantsula at a Jazz Festival but after viewing his performance at the Free Concert at Green Market Square, there was no doubt his contribution was just as significant as the traditionalists.  His performance was about the energy of the music and a message about the changes in Africa that seemed very appropriate.

jazz6There was only one sour note during the festival and that was during an otherwise great performance of traditional Jazz by Darius Brubeck & the SAPO/UKZN Rolling Reunion Band.  In the middle of his set, he took the microphone from a very talented female vocalist Pam de Menezes and proceeded to rant about how bad Americans are.  He kept saying more and more negative things about America and Americans trying to get some type of response from the bewildered audience.  Not even a comment about how George Bush stole the election generated even the slightest reaction.  I’m sure in America, he would have been applauded by the liberal left but it was totally inappropriate for him to use this venue to belittle our country and president.  More than a few people walked out at the end of his tirade.  Let’s hope the organizers take note and don’t invite him back.

I received a response from Mr. Burbeck and at his request am publishing it exactly as I received it.

Dear Mr Schultz

Your description in TravelLady Magazine (April) of my set at the Cape Town International Jazz festival has just been forwarded to my by a friend and I would appreciate your publishing my response.

In my spoken introduction to “Blowing in the Wind, a protest song, I was attempting to say something good about Americans; which is that most of us do not support President Bush or the war in Iraq. Obviously you disagree, but in the interest of accuracy my set was encored and this particular number was selected for national broadcast. And, I have been asked back.


Darius Brubeck

Here is a breakdown of the performers by Stage…

jazz7Kippies – The main stage in the big hall.  The groups here drew the biggest crowds.  Standing room in the front with bleachers in the back.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Concord Nkabinde
Joe Sample Trio featuring Randy Crawford
Randy Crawford
Gino Vannelli
Leela James
Average White Band
Ismaël Lô

Rosies – A moderate theater with tiered seating. 

Jack De Johnettes Trio featuring Danilo Perez & Jerome Harris
Geri Allen Trio
Lee Konitz Quartet
Danilo Pérez
Vivid Africa
Themba Mkhize
Darius Brubeck & the SAPO/UKZN Rolling Reunion Band
Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet
Khaya Mahlanga

jazz9Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee – Outdoors standing only unless in the food court.

Jack De Johnette & Sibongile Khumalo “Intercontinental”
Esther Miller featuring  Jeremy Pelt
Nils Landgren and his Funk Unit
The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB)
The Caribbean Jazz Project
Shannon Mowday
Yehya Khalil & the Egyptian Jazz Fusion
Madala Kunene

jazz10Bassline – This is the high energy very loud stage.  Standing in the front and tables in the back.

The Rudimentals
Tortured Soul
Fethi Tabet
>Closet Snare
>Hip Hop Pantsula
Saskia Laroo Band
Mpho Skeef

jazz11Moses Molelekwa – A smaller more intimate theater with tiered seating.  Get there early because it always fills up.

Bev Scott-Brown
Diego Amador
Muirhead Quartet
Hilton Schilder Band
Ernest Mothle
Bheki Khoza
The Stoner

This event should be on the list of any serious music fan.  Traveling to South Africa is an experience well worth anyone’s time but to be able to attend this star-studded event at the same time is like icing on the cake.

Cape Town Jazz Festival

South Africa Tourism

The best way to get there…
South African Airways

Where to stay…
Radisson SAS Hotel Waterfront

Extreme Hotel Cape Town