The Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown 2013 incorporates a variety of disciplines into its programme. Blues/Funk/World Music is one of the genres that will be highlighted at the festival this year, though it is just one part of the formidable line-up which includes Mainstream, Afro-Jazz, Modern Jazz, Youth and the Standard Bank Jazz and Blues Café.
Vocalist/guitarist Vusi Mahlasela has been affectionately dubbed “The Voice” of South Africa in tribute to his passionately soaring performances. With such a rich and vibrant sound this “African folk” singer-songwriter has inspired many with his themes of freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation. Mahlasela’s track-record boasts performances at esteemed events such as at Nelson Mandela’s Presidential inauguration, the FIFA World Cup Kick Off concert, and Mandela’s 90th Birthday 46664 celebration in Hyde Park, London, to name but a few. In 2012, the South African Music (SAMA) Awards fittingly honoured him with a lifetime achievement award for music. He is supported by Oupa Makhubela (guitar/vocal), Elwyn Masango (bass), and Johnny Motuba (drums).
Since their inception in 2011, MiCasa has taken South African audiences by storm. A groovy mix of urban house and jazz influenced the band’s first album, Micasa Music, which went gold and won several South Africa Music Awards in 2012, as well as nominations for “Best Dance Album”, “Album of the Year”, “Group of the Year”, “Newcomer of the Year”, and “Record Of The Year”! This year even saw them perform at the inauguration celebrations of Barack Obama. Consisting of three core members, this young group hails from Johannesburg and Port Alfred; and with such a prolific career in such a short space of time, keep your eyes and ears fixed on this fire-starting trio. Grahamstown audiences will see J’Something (vocal), Mo-T (trumpet), Dr Duda (producer keyboard) on stag e with Carlo Jooste (bass), Lebo Mokhela (percussion), and Mike Mwale (vocal).
The Soweto String Quartet is undeniably one of South Africa’s most-loved music groups and their sound is always fresh, vibrant and trendy, never failing to deliver an enchanting performance. With a plethora of accolades and performance highlights the group is a force on the South African music scene. The four members of the Soweto String Quartet are a political statement in themselves – four African classical musicians from a South African township, backed by a jazz rhythm section. It’s no wonder they are reportedly Nelson Mandela’s favourite music group!
Bruut! is a funky group comprised of four young, hip Dutch players: Maarten Hogenhuis (sax), Folkert Oosterbeeck (Hammond organ), Thomas Rolff (bass), and Felix Schlarmann (drums). Their progressive playing stretches the boundaries of traditional approaches to music, combining a mix of funk, blues, dance and contemporary jazz to create a uniquely-titled ‘super-jazz’. Never lacking in musical ingenuity they constantly evolve to find the niche of every new performance.
Saxophonist Rus Nerwich set out to have a project that is simple, fun and musically rich; and it has come to fruition inThe Collective Imagination – Under the Poetree.Incorporating elements of the different styles he enjoys in a contemporary musical context, he wrote more lyrically-orientated songs – things he’d like to say more directly to the audience – with the intent and style of Guru Jazzmataz, The Roots or Buckshot Lafonque with an African spin. Sparked by the musical synergy betwe en him and modern rap, Nerwich is backed by a solid band of experienced jazzers; including the likes of Dave Ledbetter (guitar), Andrew Lilley (piano), Wesley Rustin(bass), and Kevin Gibson (drums).
Slide guitar, harmonica, African blues guitar and soul vocals all feature in the vibrant sound of Robin Auld. An award-winning artist with an international CV spanning twenty albums, he has performed and recorded around the world. Currently based in the UK, his music has evolved from the pop sound of the early recordings that made him famous to the contemporary mix of roots influences that make up his sound today. Over the years many of Southern Africa’s top musicians have appeared on his albums, including the likes of Anton Fig, Louis Mhlanga and Johnny Clegg. He performs in Grahamstown as a trio, with Schalk Joubert (bass) and Kevin Gibson (drums).
Joubert (bass) and Gibson (drums) extend their collaborations to form a blues trio with guitarist Albert Frost. Frost is an all-round master guitarist with a prolific career over 20 years and, with a natural onstage charisma, he has performed on nearly every major stage in South Africa. Although continually on a quest to re-invent himself, he returns often to his first love – the blues. Voted as Best Blues Guitarist in South Africa by Stage Magazine, he has performed internationally alongside the likes of The Rolling Stones and REM.
This year will also see the establishment of the Standard Bank Jazz Blues Cafe at the Lowlander, St. Andrew’s College, which will end each night with a great jazz show and a late night jazz jam session or blues gig – a place where audiences can catch musicians letting off steam and butting musical heads late into the night, featuring the likes of Nduduzo Makhathini, saxophonist Dan Shout, Lee Thomson, Imbaula, and the Rick van Heerden Quartet.
The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013.
Author: Fiona Gordon