ON THE LINE-UP: Khaya Mthethwa with Kurt Darren, above, and Ernie Smith, right, at the World Jam Sessions launch. They are among the artists set to perform at the World Jam Music Festival.

IT WOULD appear somewhat odd that the inaugural World Jam Music Festival, to be held in Durban, gathered such an unlikely crew of artists as their first major announcement.

To be held at Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 6 and 7, the festival is set to be “a unique fusion of music and cultural heritage”. The event is being brought to audiences by the City of Durban and the KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism as well as Durban’s sister city, New Orleans.

The event will see about 80 artists from South Africa, New Orleans, the West Indies and Ocean Islands perform across four stages in and around the stadium.

The festival will include cultural exhibitions, cultural food stalls as well as mardi gras float parades and brass bands which, organisers hope, will add to the cultural diversity the festival aims to achieve.

The organisers, which include the International Arts Foundation (IAF) in the US, hope to attract 40 000 people over the weekend from across the country and plan to hold the World Jam Session annually.

To this end they held a mid- morning party-meets-press conference where, aside from speeches by eThekwini mayor, the honourable James Nxumalo, and other speakers from the US and South Africa, there were also performances by Ernie Smith and his band, gospel singer Kaya Mthethwa and top Afrikaans adult contemporary singer, Kurt Darren, as well as KZN jazz singer, Natalie Rungan. They are all set to perform at the festival as well as Lira, who was not in attendance. Ky-Mani Marley from Jamaica was also announced to perform.

Then there was also an introductory performance by Soul Feather, the New Orleans group who fuse “Mardi Gras Indian, second line jazz and West African music” and are led by an American whose actual name is Shaka Zulu.

Watching Shaka Zulu perform while adorned in gigantic red feathers was something akin to Las Vegas cabaret dancers meets African djembe drummers and I couldn’t help thinking that his namesake must be having a complete hissy fit in the ancestral world.

Also, the announcement of a gospel singer, an Afrikaans singer, a jazz singer, the feathered mardi gras Shaka Zulu-led performers, the lesser known son of Bob Marley and Lira is a pretty weak way of announcing such a purportedly major national festival.

However, there are five months to go before the event takes place which gives the organisers a lot more time to push the festival with staggered announcements, including two international acts. The international acts will close the festival each night.

At Monday’s launch, food stations were available to illustrate the various stages which will be themed on the day with the appropriate artists performing on each stage. There is the Rock & Blues stage, Sophia Town and SA Stars stage, the New Orleans Jazz stage and the Ocean Islands stage.

Karlton Kirksey of the IAF said: “The magnificent New Orleans Jazz arena will provide the flagship entertainment area and will feature performances by some of New Orleans’s top artists to highlight the long-standing sister city relationship shared with Durban.”