The Cape Town International Jazz Festival's free concert brought life to an otherwise tame event.
A son sits on his father’s shoulders, waving the national flag. Next to them a boy has his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders. Where his fingers rest to touch her skin, two shades of colour meet.
“My soul feels greasy.” Allen Stone belts out. He claps his hands and the crowd follows. What happens next sounds like a thousand horses galloping on pristine cobblestones.
The girls are giggling. The boys are smoking. A homeless man makes friends. “I am going to kill him!” another guy declares to a homeless man. His wife has been screaming at the half-naked drummer. He’s been left holding his wife’s shoes as she jumps up and down. The drummer’s solo vibrates inside us like an insistent tap on the collarbone and a jesting punch in the gut. The crowd leaps up and down. You smell the sweat. Up and down. You taste the salt.
And then The Dance.
Green Market Square is instantly amplified and illuminated. Purple smoke clings to the air on stage—it’s as if a fire is catching on under the boards.
“Tell them to dance.” Dave Koz cradles his saxophone as delivers the message from an absent Bebe Winans, the vocalist for his most successful song in South Africa. The crowd jumbles up the lyrics, but the hands keeping swaying: Left to right. Right to left. And at that moment, what up to then had been a rather tamed Cape Town International Jazz Festival free concert, became the people’s concert.
Writer Rhirandzu Ramasela is a former participant on the CTIJF Arts Journalism Programme, this year celebrating its 10th birthday.
For more from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, see our special report.