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Joy of Jazz: ‘Young jazz musicians have taken over’

It’s been 18 years of celebrating jazz music on South African soil through the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival, which kicks off on September 24 at the Sandton Convention Centre over four stages. 

In 2014 the festival organiser’s moved the international event from Newtown, Jo’burg to Sandton, a business hub, in order to accommodate a larger crowd. Last year’s artist line-up featured renowned musicians, Dianne Reeves, Gregory Porter, Roy Hargrove, Jonas Gwangwa and Sibongile. The line-up this year consists of United States jazz bassist Marcus Miller, William Parker, Hugh Masekela, Stimela, Jimmy Dludlu and Oliver Mtukudzi and the Shai-Shai Mbira Ensemble. Unlike the previous year’s programme – where R&B and soul artists Billy Ocean, Dwele, Brian Temba and Preston “Press” Sihlangu performed – this year R&B will have limited time in the spotlight but fans of the genre will be catered for by Untied States R&B star Peabo Bryson, who is also on the line-up. 

The Mail & Guardian spoke to executive producer of the Joy of Jazz festival Peter Tladi, ahead of the festival about what audiences can expect from this year’s jazz festival.

What do you hope to achieve with this year’s Joy of Jazz festival?
I hope to entertain, educate and make people happier than they were last year.

You recently hosted workshops leading up to the festival. Can you tell us a bit about those workshops.
We held workshops as a part of a project called #GelezaKleva and Learn. Those workshops were done in Orange Farm, Eldorado Park and Alexandra. In each one of those we had over 200 people who came to learn about the music industry. We also had local and international musicians traveling across the country – visiting music schools where they ran master classes aimed at students who are studying music. The purpose of those classes was to support what the teachers are already doing and to give the students an opportunity to interact with professional musicians. 

What feedback did you receive from the audiences who attended last year’s festival?
Many people liked Sandton because it’s bright. We had challenges when we hosted the festival in Newtown because some areas were very dark and there was no parking but here there is plenty of parking for Africa.

How many people are you expecting at this year’s festival?
I’m expecting about 25 000 people.

What do you hope to improve with this year’s festival?
Last year we overlooked signage. We assumed people would know where to go but we soon realised that people need signage. So this year we’ve created a a free Standard Bank Joy of Jazz App, which will show you the performance schedule.

Can you elaborate on the artist line-up? 
We’ve put together the best musicians in the land – young and old. We have a 22-piece all female band orchestra called JOJ aMaqhawekazi Big Band. It’s fantastic band and they’ll be performing songs by Letta Mbulu and Sibongile Khumalo. Don’t miss the show on the 24th because that is the best night. 

William Parker.

We also feature the legends. If you look at the history of Joy of Jazz it always had legends and nostalgic moments. But if we didn’t have the legends on stage then we’d have the younger musicians sing what the older singers sing. From the very first Joy of Jazz show, the intention was to build something that would last and if it will last it would need to have young people growing into bigger musicians because people like bra Hugh Masekela won’t live forever. The sound must continue living with the young people.

How do you put together the artist line-up?
We always consult with different jazz lovers and music people in the media industry. There are a lot of jazz clubs in the country and we work together with them as well.

What do you think of the crop of young jazz musicians that we have in South Africa?
Young jazz musicians have taken over. There are more young jazz musicians than the older ones. If you look at bra Hugh Masekela and Oliver Mtukudzi’s bands, their bands consist of young musicians. Our line-up also includes young jazz artists such as Dee Alexander and Cecile McLorin Salvant.

Which performance are you looking forward to the most?
All of them but you won’t drag me away from performances by Hugh Masekela, Oliver Mtukudzi and Lee Oscar.

What are some of the festival’s achievements?
We are beginning to attract a lot of overseas visitors. People appreciate what this [JOJ] is doing for the economy of the country. We have radio stations from the Untied States, UK and Germany coming to festival. One of the things that the show is willing to do is to realise what people talk about – everybody talks about brining people together and I think we have managed to do that.

Standard Bank Joy of Jazz runs from September 24 – 26 at the Sandton Convention Centre. Tickets available at Computicket. Visit for the full programme. 

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Katlego Mkhwanazi
Katlego Mkhwanazi is the Mail & Guardians arts, culture and entertainment content producer. She started her career in magazines, before joining the Mail & Guardian team in 2014. She is an entertainer at heart.

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