Bra Hugh was honoured at CTIJF2018. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – Recognised as the fourth largest jazz festival in the world, you know you're in for a jol when the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (#CTIJF) comes around.

Now in its 20th year, the annual event attracts thousands of jazz enthusiasts from around the globe, with attendance numbers reaching more than 34 000 in 2013. 

However, you don't have to be a jazz lover to appreciate the soulful music of its featured artists. This year promises to deliver a jam-packed weekend, showcasing the likes of Chaka Khan, Moonchild and our very own Shekhinah.

In previous years, the festival sought to provide not only a springboard for up-and-coming artists but to unite the world of jazz under one massive music festival.

If you're still in two minds as to whether to attend this year's event, how about a trip down memory lane to reignite your love for all things jazz?

Hit the bass(line)

The Bassline stage is an experience that delivers time and time again. Diehard festival goers know not to give it a miss, because if it's local hip-hop that you're after, you won't be disappointed. 

CTIJF13 was off the chains, as groups like Mi Casa, Trenton and the Free Radical took to the stage. But the highlight of 2013 was AKA’s larger than life performance.

During a media conference on the eve of taking to the stage, he declared: “I am going to beat the shit out of the stage”. And true to form, the rapper, accompanied by Khuli Chana, brought the house down. Starting off his set, AKA shouted to the crowd: “Here I am, closing off the Jazz Fest”. In AKA fashion, the rapper closed with Jealousy and Victory Lap.

All that jazz

CTIJF2017 was one that went down in jazz history as a pivotal point for SA musos. Jonas Gwangwa took over the Klippies stage, while Tshepo Tshola had the audience in rapture, while singing along to Sankomota’s Now or Never. In 2016, he shared the stage with Mafikizolo, and graduated to his Klippies solo performance a year later.

Opening with gospel song We Want to Enter, he set the tone for the rest of his set, performing crowd-pleasers like Dikgomo and Morwa, Gwangwa.

Also at CTIJF2017, US superstar group En Vogue serenaded fans on the main stage, with their high tempo brand of R&B. The powerhouse all-female group are veterans of the jazz festival circuit, and it showed as they managed to keep the crowds entertained.

Paying homage to SA legends

Last year's jazz fest saw musicians honouring the late Bra Hugh Masekela. For international act Incognito, it was a personal gesture. “When Incognito began in 1979, we got offered to do our first album in 1980. 

Hugh Masekela had come to England to play Ronnie Scotts, and when he'd finished playing, two of his players stayed behind and they joined Incognito. So, we have a history together,” said Incognito guitarist Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick.

“We collect stories, and Bra Hugh Masekela has given us a lot of stories along the way.”

As an ode to Mandela, local songstress Simphiwe Dana gathered a group of female musicians for a performance that dazzled the crowds.

The set list was a long walk through the Struggle, to mark the centenary celebration of Nelson Mandela. During an interview in the run-up to CTIJF2018, she said: “The theme of the show is Struggle songs and we want to remind people of how far we have come and to take stock of how far we have to go.”

CTIJF2019 takes place at the CTICC from March 29 to March 30. Tickets are on sale at Computicket. Visit for more info.

Cape Times