Zoe Modiga. Picture: Supplied

Coming to the Johannesburg Theatre this week is The Liberation Project, a unique collaboration by a group of seasoned musicians from South Africa, Italy and Cuba, who have come together to celebrate through song, liberation struggles from various parts of the world.

With the main focus being on a reimagining of protest music from Cuba, Italy and South Africa, the concert also coincides with the launch of an international collaborative album, Songs That Made Us Free, produced by Neill Solomon, Dan Chiorboli and guitarist Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music fame.

If the band’s performance and the audience’s reception of them at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival earlier this year is anything to go by, then audiences are truly in for a treat.

To be held on the Mandela stage on Friday, May 25, The Liberation Concert will, for the first time, see a fully-fledged South African cultural production involving artists from across the world in a once-off and unique performance. 

A celebration of music and community

Curated especially for Africa Month and featuring a line-up of artists, such as the Grammy award-winning Juan de Marcos - architect of the Buena Vista Social Club, Mamelodi’s “The Voice” Vusi Mahlasela, master kora player N’Faly Kouyate, Italian jazz singer Rossella Graziani, vocalist and percussionist Cyril Neville from New Orleans’ esteemed Neville Brothers, and guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music and Pink Floyd fame.

Rapper Stilo Magolide, whose lyricism and bars capture modern South African life, also adds to the bill, alongside composer Ernie Smith, singer Pu2uma Tiso and the Sama-nominated jazz vocalist Zoe Modiga.

The concert will also pay tribute and celebrate the lives and music of Ray Phiri and Hugh Masekela, who used their voices to campaign against apartheid, thus playing significant roles towards the struggle for freedom in South Africa. 

Masekela’s Soweto Blues and Phiri’s Brothers in Freedom can also be found on the record, the latter to which is added Bra Ray’s vocal and guitar work, contributed a few weeks before he died.

The Liberation Project Band is made up of Giuseppe Cotumaccio (MD, keyboards and vocals), Neill Solomon (vocals, acoustic guitar and piano), Tebogo Sedumedi (vocals and bass), Dan Chiorboli (percussion), Peter Djamba (drums), Tony Cedras (accordion, trumpet and piano), Keeran Eshwarlall (Sufi vocals, Harmonium and BulBul Tarang), Zoe Modiga (vocals) and Pu2ma Tiso (vocals), as well as a horn section led by Dan Selsick. 

Ernie Smith is a special guest on guitar.

While chatting to Pu2ma Tiso, she mentioned that being part of an ensemble of artists such as this is a gift for her. Pu2ma, who we’ve come to know very recently as a gospel vocalist, makes her journey back to jazz for her performance.She credits Masekela as being part of her journey to mainstream success.

“If it weren’t for the encourage-ment of Bra Hugh, I wouldn’t have been a part of this show. He was the first person to give me a platform when I did Joy of Jazz with him years ago,”she said.

“When I got the call, I was a bit sceptical, because I do jazz a bit less than I used to. I had a meeting with the band. I feel that they are such a nice group and I am absolutely looking forward to working with them,” Tiso said.

Among the musicians she’s excited to be working with are Stilo Magolide and Zoe Modiga.

Tebogo Sedumedi, bassist for the band, said that the show allowed her to look ahead and imagine what the sound of the future was, and how intercontinental artist collaborations are possible through a theme and passion.

“It shows that we are all interlinked. I keep thinking that people need to see us because we represent change and what the new sound should be. So the project is about struggle songs from different parts of the world. For me, it says we are all looking for that one song - the contentment, the peace, the love, the stability, that’s all we’re looking for,” she said.

She added that the value of shows such as The Liberation Project are that they help preserve memory: “They preserve where we come from. They show people that life is a journey and it’s important that we keep going back to where we come come from.

“I am for preserving culture and memory. We have to always remember. And the people on stage, they show you where we come from, it’s not just the music,” she said.

* The show starts at 8pm and tickets cost R150. Direct any queries to the Joburg Theatre website, or call 0861 670 670.

* The Liberation Concert is produced by The Joburg Theatre, National Arts Council, Consolato Generale D’Italia and Department of Arts and Culture with Roshnie Moonsammy and Dan Chiorboli.

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