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Jazzworx, making jazz work

Jazzworx is a classic story of South African success, a crossover band that is self-made, multicultural and multidisciplinary. Their stage names indicate the fantasy by which they live: Robi Funk, Craig Massiv, Teezo and Tebza.

Their 2001 album Sugartrax stayed on Metro FM’s number one spot for over four weeks. Now they have released The Coming Storm (Sheer Music), featuring a host of guest luminaries including pianist Paul Hanmer, saxophonist McCoy Mrubata and Ready D who does some mean scratching. This weekend Jazzworx appear live at the North Sea jazz festival.

Is your album intended to be dance music?

Craig: It leads to the dance floor but there are aspects to it that go across the board. There’s a jazz element. You can sit back on a Sunday afternoon, grab a couple of drinks and listen to it. Or you can get down to it on the dance floor. It crosses over all those borders. It’s a fusion of jazz, kwaito, dance, hip hop, R & B, soul.

Tebza: Certain songs cater for a specific market but the songs themselves, what they talk about is something you can sit back and listen to.

Do you go into making an album consciously thinking that you’re going to make a fusion of styles that caters to specific groups?

Tebza: I don’t think that we consciously go into it thinking, “Okay I’m seeing like this beautiful black woman getting down on the dance floor to this”. No. I think that as the production is going you can more or less hear that people are going to get down to it. But we don’t necessarily say we’re going to make a track for these people.

Craig: The group of guys who are involved with Jazzworx all come from so many different musical backgrounds and listen to so many styles of music that there are no pigeonholes. We enjoy anything from old Seventies Motown funk and soul right through to drum’n’bass to hiphop and house — we’ve got so many influences. We’ve been around in the dance market since it started. We’re not going into things saying “I’m going to make a tune for this market.” Why limit ourselves when we’ve got so many different influences and so many musical tastes within our group?

Is this your dream album?

Tebza: From a collaboration aspect, working with someone like Paul Hanmer and McCoy (Mrubata), that was a dream come true.

The North Sea Jazz Festival runs from March 30 to 31 at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town. Tickets: R235 for a one-day pass, R360 for a two-day pass. Erykah Badu will be in Jo’burg on April 1 at The Bowl at Kyalami. Call Computicket for details.

[What to do if someone asks what music it is: Rule #1, don’t panic! Most people don’t really have a clue of the definitions. Smile and describe the relevant act as “fusion”, nu-jazz, crossover or “old-skool”. Drop “funk” in every fourth word. In the event of abject failure, just say “Oh, I think Roy is playing at Rosies again” and take your leave — Rob Rose]

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