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Laura Mvula at CTIJF. Photo via CTIJF's Facebook.

The Women of Cape Town International Jazz Festival Showed the Beautiful Diversity of ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’

This year’s 18th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival had some heavy-hitters when it came to performers, but the highlight were the women who graced the stage.

Deviating from the traditional jazz artists, the festival welcomed lyricist Dope Saint Jude, Syd of The Internet, Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets, En Vogue, Laura Mvula and powerhouse vocalist Andra Day.

While Saint Jude hails from Cape Town, the visit was a first for Andra and Syd of The Internet who were excited to switch up their set to appeal to the international crowd.

“Expect to be asked to participate,” Syd said in the press room. “It’s always more fun when the crowd participates so we’re going to be asking the crowd to participate a little.”

Syd also touched upon future shows in the country.

“We would love to come back and perform for an actual Internet fan crowd. Best believe we would love that, but it’s really expensive to get out here with five of us though. [chuckles] We just have to wait for the right offers to come in. As soon as we can come back and plan some shows—I know Joburg has been really adamant about us coming there. We would love to go.”

Andra was also excited about the festival, foreshadowing her lively performance that incorporated elements of South African music.

“I think, traveling to Africa, the vibrant music scene, the sounds that people love here, you take that into consideration. And then also you take into consideration that it is a jazz festival,” she said about remixing her usual set.

“So I think, for me, I wanted to take lot of liberties with my band as far as I can. I mean you obviously have your regimented set, so the people hear the music and lyrics that resonate with you hopefully resonate with them. But you want it to be open, you want it to be fun, you want to experiment, you want to play. And, so that’s kind of what was in my mind as far as preparing for this show.”

Considered one of Africa’s largest music festivals, the event held in the Convention Center of downtown Cape Town brings in thousands of attendees. In addition to lively performances, the week-long event also includes master classes and workshops all focused around the genre of jazz.

For traditionalist Nomfundo Xaluva, this year proved as another great opportunity to show the diversity in jazz.

“There’s this movement in the jazz scene in South Africa now where young people are excited to sing that music and to hear that music and to reinterpret the music,” Nomfundo noted about the idea of jazz being a fading art.

“And because the struggle isn’t really over, those songs from back in the ’40s and ’50s still ring true today.”

“This whole myth that jazz or the old music is reserved for back in the day, it’s a complete myth,” she added. “People are proud to be black South African, and be proud of their history and the role that jazz played in it.”

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