Three days ago, while reaching for a suitcase to pack for his Grahamstown trip, Ray Phiri, the grand old man of mbaqanga music, falls off a chair and breaks three ribs.
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I arrive ten minutes late for Don Laka’s show, at the tail-end of his first song. Worried I wouldn’t get a seat, my fears are abated when I see a few empty seats sprinkled around the venue. It’s amazing to me that one of the most important living pianists in South Africa is just barely filling up a show. Nonetheless, the sonic adventure he provides makes up for this slightly-above-lukewarm reception of Laka by Festival audiences.
These are the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winners for 2015.
If we trust our young people, and give them the tools they need, then surely our heritage is in safe hands,” says Concord Nkabinde, director of the Standard Bank National Youth Band 2015, after they’d played his first three arrangements on Monday night at the DSG Hall.
This piano duo featuring Andre Petersen, a classically trained jazz pianist, and Kathleen Tagg, a classical pianist with an interest in African pianism and unconventional treatment of the piano, is an interesting partnership in a programme that mainly celebrates the sonic essence of Africa.
Kesivan Naidoo is larger than life. If he were an actor, a casting agent might recommend him for a zany guru, a rebellious teddybear, or a demented Svengali. But he’s a musician, and, seated centre stage – like a rock drummer – Kesivan is more like a noisy musical chef as he cooks away, throwing ingredients into the mix – a bluesy solo from pianist Kyle Shepherd, some rock guitar from Reza Khota, a show-stopping double bass solo from Shane Cooper, with three saxophonists and one legendary trumpeter (Feya Faku) standing by to be added to taste.
It all starts off great! The opening composition Fire lives up to its name, as the SJO provides punchy brass, delicate flutes, with a rocksolid rhythm section, and Martin Sjöstedt swapping his customary double bass for an electric instrument. But for the next number composer, arranger and conductor Ann- Sofi Söderqvist introduces vocalist Lena Swanberg, who stays throughout.
Before the Cape Town International Jazz Festival there was the North Sea Jazz Festival – Cape Town (don’t ask!). There I attended many of the workshops organised by the late Hotep Idris Galeta. The extraordinary contribution from a little-known Benin guitarist at one of these gatherings made us all sit up, and get up!
Since then Lionel (pronounced Leeon- ell) Loueke has made a considerable impact on the US jazz scene, being mentored by veteran jazz masters Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, who recognised both his talent and his uniqueness.
Kesivan Naidoo is a man steeped in paradox. He is one of the most accomplished musicians in South Africa, yet he remains a figure of relative anonymity. He is a bandleader but he does so from the back via a drum kit. The 36-year-old jazz maestro is marking his 20th year of visiting the National Arts festival, an event which he credits with his career, and he is doing so in some style.
A four-piece contemporary jazz ensemble delivers an elegant and diverse set of arrangements. Not just for the jazz-fan; it’s for everyone who loves music. The repertoire ranges from upbeat to melancholy to celebratory. This easy-going band of musicians do themselves proud!
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