Photos: Cape Town Jazz Festival Recap

13th Cape Town International Jazz Fest Day 1:

“In time we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face” says saxophonist Steve Dyer, quoting his namesake Black Consciousness founder Steve Biko. “When will be that time? Who will be the bestower of the gift if not we?” he asks, eyes searching the crowd.

Nelson Mandela’s South Africa has in recent times been sculling troubled water - lingering racism, endemic poverty, chronic unemployment, political subterfuge and other social malignancies - and Dyer’s sermon, delivered two songs into his set at the 13th Cape Town International Jazz Festival, strikes a chord with the audience in the Moses Molelekwa Auditorium.  The message is modest; we need each other to affirm our humanity.

It’s a theme that threads through the two-day festival, connecting a disparate group of artists (just over 50 in total) from Pharoahe Monch (video below) to Hugh Masekela. The 30,000 strong revellers are too a living, breathing, heaving, embodiment of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ envisaged 17 years ago after the fall of apartheid: one nation under one groove.

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After Dyer’s poised performance of tunes from his latest project, Ubuntu Music (SABC Studios), we manage to catch a glimpse of raspy-voiced Joburg songstress Unathi Msengana at the tail end of her set, right before she gives a pulsating cover of Brenda Fassie’s melancholy-soaked 1989 hit "Too Late for Mama." “Ten kilometres barefooted in the bush/started raining on the way to fetch some water/poor woman had a baby on her back/was struck by lightning on her way/to fetch some water”: It’s powerful, moving stuff.

From one sister to another; Brooklyn MC Jean Grae (below with Pharoahe Monch), daughter of legendary pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, had heads ringing and fists pumped into the howling Cape Town wind for much of the duration of her hour long set (check out her tweet above - her crew didn't want to leave Cape Town!). The high point arrived when she recited her lyrics from "Black Girl Pain"; a heart-felt commentary on sisterhood. “My mama said life would be so hard/Growin up days as a black girl scarred/In so many ways though we’ve come so far/They just know the name they don’t know the pain/So please hold your heads up high/Don’t be ashamed of yourself know I/will carry forth till I die."

*photo by Tebesutfu Nkambule

For the remainder of the night, when Mozambican saxophonist Moreira Chonguica and charismatic house music wonder kid Zakes Bantwini each take to the stage, the planets funk out of orbit.

*photo by Tebesutfu Nkambule

DAY 2:

“Activism is alive, ignorance is the cancer” says Jimmy Flexx of Cape Town’s premier hip hop crew Ill-Literate-Skill, aka Ill Skillz (above). Backed by an award-winning jazz band, Ological Studies, the group which has built a solid rep on their characteristic gritty realism and socially conscious raps, deliver an emphatic performance to mark their debut at the festival.

The jewel in the crown, however, proves to be living legend Hugh Masekela (pictured at the top with Zolani Mahola) – Bra Hugh as he’s affectionately known - and his tribute concert to the late Mama Miriam Makeba with special guests Zolani Mahola (Freshly Ground), Vusi Mahlasela and Thandiswa Mazwai. “Some people die but they never go away,” Masekela says of Makeba, his one-time wife, in his trademark husky baritone voice. From the opening number, "Chileshe (tolerance)" straight to the last, ‘Thanayi" (a song made famous by Makeba circa-1955) Bra Hugh never for a second allows his audience to slip into boredom. It’s a pure class act. Hard to follow as headliner Lauryn Hill (below), daughter of Zion, will attest. A late replacement for Jill Scott, the former Fugees MC was undone by poor sound mechanics and her voice seems to have gone kaput. She gave a performance that couldn’t be salvaged. At times there were glimpses of the Lauryn the world once fell in love with but in the end, hers was a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable festival.


Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Qatar Museums

Influential Louis Vuitton And Off-White Designer Virgin Abloh, Dies at 41

The popular Ghanian-American designer had been battling a rare form of cancer in private for several years.

The fashion industry has lost a talented, unique, and boundary-pushing influence this weekend.

41-year-old Ghanianian-American designer Virgil Abloh has died after a 2 year battle with a rare form of cancer, a statement from his associates LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said on Sunday. Abloh, founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White, and artistic director of men's wear at French fashion house Louis Vuitton leaves his wife Shannon, and 2 children - Lowe and Grey. Chairman and CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnault said in a statement, "We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom." "The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother, or their friend," he added.

After the news broke on Sunday, Abloh started trending on Twitter, with fans of the designer remembering his influence on music, art, and fashion. The 1990s saw Abloh DJ and the creative director once told The Guardian in a 2016 interview, "When the phone is off, I play my favorite songs really loud for myself, and I'm not talking to anyone. I'm not managing anything. It's just like a time when I can listen to music… I'll be DJing after I'm done designing or doing anything else." Virgil got his hands into designing album artworks after strumming up a friendship with American rapper Kanye West before becoming the creative director of West's DONDA Creative House. More recently known for his creative streetwear brand 'Off-White' the designer became popular among fashion-conscious youngsters and will forever be immortalized.

A statement posted to Abloh's Instagram explained that "Virgil chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture"

Friends, fans, and colleagues took to social media to share their well-wishes for Virgil as he transitions to his next destination.

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