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Cape Town Jazz jamboree

By | April 6th 2012

The 13th Cape Town Jazz Festival held last week in Cape Town South Africa lived up to its billing as "Africa's grandest gathering" bringing together music lovers and artiste from across the world.

Held over two days and on five stages, the acts summed up the mood of the time. Although a jazz event, the organisers went across the board to fulfill entertainment needs of the crowd of music lovers, with performances varying from jazz to hip-hop and reggae.

South African musician, Zamajobe, opened the festival on the main stage. Zamajobe Sithole was discovered by ‘Idols’ in 2003 and although she failed to progress beyond the top 10 then, she has never looked back. She however, at times almost let the ball drop. But it was HHP (Hip-Hop Pantsula), another South African award-winning sensation, performing on a different stage at almost the same time who swayed the crowd. HHP was one of the musicians picked from alternate genres.

Dave Koz redeemed the Jazz angle of the event when he came onto the main stage after Zamajobe. Koz is a musician in his own class and arguably one of the smoothest jazz saxophonists. With a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, much was expected and he delivered, teaming up with another heartthrob Patti Austin who paid tribute to Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

Austin, however, had her own show on the second day on a different stage.

With Koz on the saxophone and the hall packed to capacity, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival was well and truly underway.

Hugh masekela does it

The arrangement of the acts however, on the main stage kept going up and down in tempo and flair with Mozambique’s The Moreira Project coming on after Koz. Flowing from Koz to Moreira, another saxophonist with afro-jazz leanings, sounded rough around the edges. Probably, Moreira just failed to shine simple because Koz had set the standards pretty high up and stolen the thunder.

Artistes were drawn mostly from South Africa and US but with a sprinkling of others like David Sanchez with special guest Lionel Loueke, The Moreira Project (Mozambique), Nouvelle Vague (France), Xia Jia (China) and Alfredo Rodriguez (Cuba).

The first day set the level high but it was the second and final day that had the crowd on the edge. The day’s biggest performance, and arguably the festival’s as well was Hugh Masekela’s tribute to Miriam Makeba with special guests the likes of youthful freshly ground’s Zolani Mahola and Thandiswa Mazwai, one of the pioneers of Kwaito movement and Vuli Mahlasela.

Obviously a favourite, the trumpeter had the crowd on its feet immediately he came on and the fact that this was a mainly South African crowds did not hurt with the crowd singing along to the medley of Makeba’s songs.

The festival’s final act Lauryn Hill, however, failed to live up to her billing struggling with a loud band that drowned her vocals.

Time and again she was forced to turn her back to the crowd and instruct her band without much success. Coming closely on the heels of Hugh Masekela, she had huge shoes to fill and she failed miserably. Masekela’s performance practically handed her a hall packed with screaming fans but she let them slip away and by the time she hit her second number the crowd was already thinning out.

Hills’ die-hard fans hang on for a while hoping she would redeem herself to no avail. By her third song the festival was practically over as people left or huddled outside to catch up.

Ironically, Hill was brought in after Jill Scott, another American musician pulled at the last minute. South African press reported that Scott had pulled out of the festival after she was offered a role in an unnamed movie that was to begin filming towards the end of March.

Despite the organisers’ assurance that Scott’s withdrawal would not affect the festival, her replacement, Lauryn Hill, left a lot to be desired. Many felt should have been the final act following her dismal performance.

All in all, the festival was in a class on its own. Quite predictably, South Africa’s Minister for Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile hailed the festival.

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