Gabriela Moreira is a freelance Mozambican journalist and development worker. She visited a training and development project of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, and found some surprises. This is part of the report she’ll be sending back home.
Ever heard about The Fugard? To Capetonians, it’s a theatre named after a famous playwright. But at the moment, it means ‘commitment’!
Follow me into the C19-style renovated interior of the theatre. You’ll see dozens of young people learning how to put a jazz concert on its feet. That isn’t all. They’re also developing impressive confidence in shaping an instrumental solo, mastering the technicalities of sound and lighting, and meeting the highest performance standards.
And these are children from township and peri-urban secondary schools: often the kinds of settings where they face difficulties from poverty to family breakdown.
That could take a lifetime, you might say. Well, you’re wrong! The teenagers have been learning only since late January.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s programmes to develop performance and production skills draws learners from ten of the Western Cape’s Music Focus Schools and brings in music industry professionals such as saxophonist Donveno Prins to prepare them for ‘the real world’ of live music performance. There are opportunities for school bands to win a performance opportunity at next year’s jazz festival, and scholarships to the Berklee School of Music.
But while credit goes to the programme, and to the tutors, it goes mostly to the kids. Listen and watch them at work, or just have a look at the joyful clusters of adolescents who demonstrate that jazz music carries no limiting labels of gender and class. Sit with them on the floor as they munch sandwiches and you’ll want to be a part of it yourself — or just relax and start talking with a 16-year-old girl who has chosen the saxophone as her intelligent soul companion for life.
Did you have that kind of commitment to feeling fully alive and transforming your community at their age? Maybe you need to experience it for yourself to know what I’m talking about. It’ll make you revise all your long-held concepts about jazz as an ‘elite’ music, or the music of an older generation, or music played by male instrumentalists, or music that needs a certain ethnicity to sound real. And maybe you’d also wish, as I do, that you could take the experience home and replicate it there.
Gabriela Moreira is a participant on the CTIJF Arts Journalism programme.
For more from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, see our special report.