Live jazz comes to Gugulethu

Drawing big-name jazz acts including Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner Bokani Dyer, jazz in Gugulethu is thriving. (David Harrison, M&G)

Drawing big-name jazz acts including Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner Bokani Dyer, jazz in Gugulethu is thriving. (David Harrison, M&G)

For author Sindiwe Magona the opportunity to inaugurate an upcoming monthly series of Gugulehtu-based literary events is, if Oprah-speak were to be employed, something of a “full circle moment”.

“It means a lot to me,” said the 2011 Order of Ikhamanga recipient (which she received in recognition of both her literary and humanitarian contribution to South Africa).

“It is a reminder of part of my journey. That is where I grew as a person; where I struggled to become who I am today and where the life of this writer took shape.” 

The writer’s erstwhile home at 20 NY 74, Gugulethu is where, as a domestic worker, she started her writing career. 

Under the theme of “Heritage and Home” at the event, scheduled for Sunday September 28, Magona and fellow author Marianna Thamm will speak about her life, career and, of course, the impact living n the township has had on both of these.

Magona says: “It is important for events such as these to take place in the township, because people live there and it shouldn’t be that all ‘good things’ always happen elsewhere. Children growing up in these spaces also need to witness healthy activities – by adults – where they live.
Townships shouldn’t be only about drinking, tshisanyama-ing, violence and poverty. Books, plays, discussions, song and music are things they should see and own.”

The appeal of township venues
It is, in fact, song and music that gave birth to the idea of the literary events. Luvuyo Kakaza is one third of the group NY Arts, which has been bringing live jazz events to Cape Town’s often-off-the-cultural-map townships through their bi-monthly Jazz in the Native Yards functions. 

Says Kakaza: “Jazz events [are] the brainchild of NY Arts to bring live performance back to the townships because not too long ago jazz was played in almost every yard in every township. Lots of people here don’t necessarily have the money to go and check out jazz gigs in town. Yes, there are a few spaces and, of course, the big jazz festival, but artists also want to play in township venues.”

The Sunday afternoon events have taken place at venues such Khayelitsha’s Kefu Jazz Pub – “more of a restaurant set-up,” says Kakaza – and Gugulethu’s Sky Lounge and Kwa Sec – “you could call it a shebeen,” he laughs wryly, before adding, “It has a real homely, intimate feel”.

Drawing big-name jazz acts including Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner Bokani Dyer, George Werner, trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni and his TRC Group, Nomfundo Xaluva and Blackie Tempi, its increased popularity is a clear reflection of what Tempi calls the “need for live music here”.

Tempi, who has “been living in Gugs practically all [his] life”, says, “There is not much in townships in terms of jazz and, really, people want music where they live. The jazz scene in Cape Town needs to be fixed. Even in the city, there is not much happening. There are only really two spaces where you go and check out different acts performing. Jazz needs to [be] made more accessible to people.”

Xaluva adds, “These events are really essential. We need to create a stronger culture of arts appreciation in townships.”

Of her debut township gig, Xaluva laughs self-deprecatingly: “You know, I’ve always been told I need to play in the townships, so when the call came to perform there, I didn’t even think twice.”  

The 2014 Metro FM Best Urban Album award-winner says, “So, there I was with two white band members who have played in townships before and me, black as the night, never having performed in a township before. So, of course, I felt I had to redeem myself.”

“It was an incredible night. There’s just something about being in the townships – it’s just home. At the gig, there was a fire going with a potjie. After the gig, you go and get your potjiekos and some steamed bread. I mean, really, where are you going to find a gig like that? Where?” 

Bringing it back to the written word, Magona says, “We are going to work to make this initiative grow and grow until till we have a book or cultural festival in Gugulethu. I mean, why not?”

  • Jazz in the Native Yards’s next event, Township Jazz Heritage, will feature Babalwa Meintjies (vocals) Blackie Tempi (trumpet) George Weiner (piano), Mike Kwraqa (bass) Skhumbuzo Mhlawuli(drums) and young jazz musicians, G-Cleff. September 24, Kwa Sec, 52 NY 138, Gugulethu, at 3pm. Tickets cost R50.  
  • The literary afternoon with Sindiwe Magona will take place on Sunday September 28 at 3pm, at 20 NY 74, Gugulethu. 
  • For more information, call 082 093 5369 For a park and ride from Observatory @ R100 return, SMS 082 093 5369 by 25 September.

Client Media Releases

NWU consistently among top SA universities in rankings
MTN gears up for Black Friday sale promotion
Software licensing should be getting simpler, but it's not
Utility outages: looking at the big picture
UKZN scientists get L'Or'eal-UNESCO Women in Science grants