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What differentiates the Cape Town International Jazz Festival from other similar themed festivals is that the organisers always take their younger audience into consideration. They are not afraid to experiment with artists who fall outside the perimeters of jazz, artists who, in fact, create music that makes jazz purists want to weep in despair. This includes kwaito and hip hop artists.
However, where the organisers are strict is that the artists must perform with a live band. No backing tracks are allowed. This, inadvertently, helps the artists in those genres to go further because they have to take a second look at their music and almost recraft it into a playable form with real instruments. This leads to many leaning towards the joys of a live band as opposed to backing tracks in their careers.
HHP is one such example. He performed with a live band to a packed audience a few years ago and there was no looking back.
Other artists who embraced the concept and were a hit at the festival include Zola, Khuli Chana, Kabelo and, of course, TKZee. In fact, TKZee almost never played as the stage’s roster was running late. However, when they did they were brilliant. The concert happened outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre under the bridge. Their gritty live show and the setting added to their performance, giving it a sophistication which accompanies all of their kwaito tracks as well as that bona fide street edge.
This year it is the turn of the brewing bromance between rappers Da Les and AKA. At a photoshoot and quick interview in Parkhurst, Joburg, earlier in the month, the two said they are confident theirs will be a show like no other. Both see the show as a challenge. They will perform individual tracks from their respective albums as well as their collaborative tracks.
It’s hard to believe AKA has only released one album. His current single, Congratulate, debuted at No 1 on iTunes South Africa. If they carry off the show properly it will be a step up in their careers and could change perceptions.
The chemistry between the two is palpable off and on the stage. They like the bling of the rap star life, but also have the emotional intelligence and experience to see through the bull. On stage they are striking – these two tall, energetic young men who instinctively know each other’s moves. From their dancing to the way they dress to their rapping style and rhymes, Da Les and AKA are the current superstars of rap and together can be bigger than each as an individual.
Neither is a stranger to a live band. Da Les played with a live band during the days of Jozi with Ishmael and Bongani Fassie. The first time I saw AKA perform with a live band was at Oppikoppi a few years back and it made a big difference to his delivery. He was more intense and seemed lost in the music. It didn’t mean he was less of his characteristic showman self, his energy just had a different focus. It was all encompassing, less frivolous.
As we moved up the road for the photoshoot, even the trendy Parkhurst hipsters noticed the pair’s star power. Wearing thick gold chains, AKA and Da Les, posed for photographer Itumeleng English in the rush-hour traffic of that cafe society.
Having seen both artists perform with live bands and having watched them perform together, it is clear that AKA and Da Les are going to be a highlight of this festival. Plus, they will bring the glamour, the glitz and the fun!
• AKA and Da Les will perform on Saturday, March 29 on the Bassline stage. Their show will close the festival.