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.


Image supplied by the artist.

Interview: Master KG Talks 'Jerusalema' and Taking Bolobedu House to the World

Prolific South African artist Master KG talks about the international success of 'Jerusalema' , his next music project and hints at an epic collaboration with a certain music heavyweight.

If you haven't heard about South African musician and DJ Master KG then you have definitely been living under a gigantic rock for the past few months. With the international success of his 2019 release "Jerusalema" featuring Nomcebo Zikode, whether you're in America or Europe, New Zealand or Africa, Master KG is an artist on everyone's playlists––and for good reason.

The 24-year-old Limpopo-born artist is behind the viral #JerusalemaDanceChallenge that has seen fans across the world participating not only for social media but even as "team building" exercises at their various workplaces. Admittedly, as the world continues to figure out what life alongside the COVID-19 pandemic looks like, Master KG's music has provided a much-needed moment of reprieve for so many people other than just South Africans.

Aside from "Jerusalema" however, Master KG has a number of hits within his extensive discography in the uniquely South African bolobedu house genre, a "mixture of Afro house instrumentals and bolobedu melodies usually sung with high-pitched autotune (a staple in the subgenre)". Tracks like "Skeleton Move", "Waya Waya" and "Di Boya Limpopo" have become almost anthemic for South Africans particularly during the festive season. For this, Master KG has received and been nominated for several awards including the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act and Best Male Southern Africa at the African Muzik Magazine Awards (Afrimma). And while he was surprisingly snubbed at this year's South African Music Awards (SAMAs), it's quite evident that that was a huge mistake on their part and one they won't be making again.

We caught up with Master KG to talk about the international sensation that "Jerusalema" has become, some of the other major projects he's working on, repping hard for Limpopo and how he's hoping to take bolobedu house to the rest of the world.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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