BLK JKS

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8min1880

THE face of relief I had, standing in front of the urinal turned into bewilderment while in the lavatory of a pub this past weekend.

Thanks to aggressive marketing, which has advertisements in our faces even when we’re having a moment with our bodies. What had me confused was the flyer of the Tembisa Jazz festival.

From the artists on the line-up, it would’ve been better to name it an Afro-soul festival. Sjava, Zahara and Selaelo Selota are the main acts on the bill. Only the latter is a jazz artist. Sjava and Zahara are as far from being jazz artists as Joburg is to Abuja, by foot.

Understand this, this isn’t about the artists but event organisers who come up with these shows which disguise themselves as festivals. This isn’t a unique problem to the Ekurhuleni Township; there was a similar and more cringing case in Soweto during the youth month at the splendid Soweto Theatre.

Dubbed the Soweto Jazz International Festival, their line-up included the likes of rapper Nasty C, Sho Madjozi, Deborah Cox, Lady Zamar and Mi Casa.

Let that sink in.

Is this a case of the suits calling all the shots, instead of having knowledgeable individuals in these crucial positions? What puzzles me is why there’s this incessant obsession with jazz, when what you’re presenting to attendees ain’t jazz. It’s blatant misleading of patrons who actually appreciate jazz, but more than that it’s an unfathomable mind fuck on black people in the township who walk out of those events really believing that Loliwe is a jazz joint. Like how many people still think Kenny G is a jazz artist.

But in the defence of these kasi events, I also blame the inevitable growth of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. What started out strictly as a jazz festival in 2000 under the name North Sea Jazz Festival- for five years, the festival was known by that name as part of the contract between the Netherlands festival and local events management company espAfrika.

From 2005 onwards, not only did the name change to what we know today as Cape Town International Jazz Festival, so too have the artists we saw on the bill. Artists who aren’t jazz kats, but whose music has elements of jazz that satisfy the genre’s aficionados like a 340ml, crept into the line-up.

As the festival grew, it was clear that it was morphing into a music festival for pure songs lovers- the BLK JKS, HHP, Zola, Louie Vega and many more other random artists have performed at the Cape Town event, even Lauryn Hill. But with their growth, the festival somehow manages to keep ardent jazz listeners satisfied each year, with a line-up that prioritizes jazz.

The Joy of Jazz still maintains its status as purely jazz festival, but over the years they have bent the rules, in a slick manner. Vocalist Bilal is one of their headline acts for this weekend’s instalment of the festival- but Bilal’s vocal dexterity just doesn’t permit you to box him anywhere, which allows the festival to get away with having him on the line-up. I was in the audience with former President Thabo Mbeki, enjoying music by Gregory Porter in 2014- he too, Porter not Mbeki, is one you can’t box. But in the same year, they had Billie Ocean on the line-up, which is the equivalent of having R. Kelly at a jazz festival.

As a millennial I know very well that the world is no longer as black and white as many people thought. There isn’t a person who is interested in the same thing, all the time. Human beings’ personalities have become more nuanced with time, largely due to the advancement of technology which exposes people to more than what is in their little village.

So the same person from Seshego in Polokwane who enjoys listening to Phuzekhemisi, also happens to be a fan of Mcoy Mrubata and knows Pharoahe Monch’s lyrics back-to-back. Having said that, organisers shouldn’t be thoughtless when naming festivals, in the name of pulling in a certain LSM- this is derived from the stigma around jazz which suggests that, the only people who enjoy the genre are the wealthy and sophisticated. There are many people in the swankiest places in our country who are ardent listeners of Zahara and Lady Zamar.

If your event doesn’t have a slew of jazz artists, don’t name it a jazz festival because it’s not, otherwise you’ll have us peeing on ourselves thanks to the shocking line-ups you have at these gigs.

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7min1740

Being the last day of the historic youth month, throngs of young people gathered at the Constitutional Hill to enjoy some of the country’s finest artists, express themselves at the three day festival which kicked-off on Thurday.

Saturday was the much anticipated music concert that featured what you could say are different eras of  South African youth. From the likes of Skwatta Kamp, Samthing Soweto,BCUC, Sho Madjozi the BLK JKS, Moonchild and Muzi.

The latter was playing his last gig in the country, before heading out to Europe for his month long tour. While he was playing Basha for the first time, Muzi gave the buoyant crowd reason to dance on Saturday night with a set that included a remix of Margret Singana’s We Are Growing (Shaka Zulu theme song) to Ye’s All Mine and some.

“It’s dope…getting people that really vibe with the music.  But that’s the thing about umculo dawg, the shit is universal. You can connect with everyone if you do it proper,” said Muzi. The producer from Empangeni was irritated though, by someone who he says interfered with his set. “There’s a guy that kept tapping my shoulder, telling me about time and that I have to finish up. Which I really didn’t like,” said the producer.

“I like enjoying my music. So I’m not the stay behind decks, and look cool typa guy. Sometimes I leave it, I just press play because I’ve mixed it proper, and vibe with the crowd.” He did that by grabbing the mic in the first half of his act, to perform one of his songs.

His European tour will see him play at Northstar in Scotland, Beatherder Festival in England and Base in Milan, Italy among others throughout July and returns just in time for Oppikoppi in August.

He doesn’t prepare different for an overseas audience, juxtaposed to the audience here at home. “…Even us as black people, we’re still kinda indoctrinated so we still have to relearn our culture. When I play a song uZenzile for instance, which I couldn’t play here, I get the same reaction from everyone. Nathi as abantu abamnyama, we’ve sort of assimilated to whiteness and that’s what we think success is. It has to be honest music…it can’t be sugar coated to suit a certain crowd.”

Madjozi’s performance which was just before Muzi’s was enjoyable, whilst Skwatta Kamp’s energy on stage was impressive for men who no longer perform week in week out. Bar the fact that singer Relo, looked a tad uncomfortable throughout their performance. A young looking Pro (Kid) performed some of his new songs, but the crowd were eating off the palm of his and when he played classics such as Wozobona.

The BLK JKS’ performance was also a big crowd puller. They had the crowd singing ‘aweyawo’ when they performed Molalatladi while everyone was charged up by Mzabalazo. The festival lived up to its theme, Join the Movement, which each performer did in their respective style. A scantily dressed Moonchild gave a great performance, as though channelling her inner Brenda Fassie. Black Motion’s stage presence and showmanship is right up there with some of the country’s best.

It was embarrassing though, when the night’s MC butchered DJ Akio’s name before his set began- the crowd kept screaming the DJ’s actual name to correct the blunder. It’s always a good sight seeing an artist who isn’t on the line-up, attending an event just to have fun. I spotted Kelly Khumalo, Petite Noir and Lunga Shabalala among others in the crowd, having jump at the festival.

I was impressed by the security presence at the event, not only that but how they never imposed themselves on the patrons. I never saw one being manhandled for rolling a joint unless, they were staring trouble. I was a victim of pick-pocketing on the night, after my cell phone was mysteriously stolen, but was fortunately able to recover it with the help of a security guard and crowd members who were ironically victims of the dude with a number of phones in his pocket. He was taken-in by the security.


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