Deborah Cox. Picture: Supplied

Soweto will come alive this weekend with the smooth sounds of jazz as the first annual Soweto International Jazz Festival is held at the Soweto Theatre from today until Sunday.

Featuring a stellar line-up of big local and international acts, the festival will also give music lovers in Soweto the opportunity to interact with some of the finest minds in music through a series of planned talks and workshops.

The multi-genre, international artist line-up will include Grammy Award-winning stars such as Third World, Bob James, Deborah Cox, Spyro Gyra, Neville Brothers, South African jazz and R&B stars Ernie Smith and Zamajobe, and for his first-ever performance in South Africa, the legendary Charlie Wilson, alongside the dynamic local gospel artist Khaya Mthethwa.


The four-day celebration is also a tribute to Hugh Masekela and Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

The festival promises to add more richness and diversity to its references library of jazz, soul, African and contemporary music by incorporating local acts such as Mi Casa, Sho Madjozi, the Soweto Choir, Leanne Dlamini, Nasty C, Lady Zamar and Major League. 

The local talent will be complemented by other international acts including the likes of Dumstafunk, OneVille, Raheen Devaughn, Kreesha Turner and Gordon Chambers.

For those looking to buy items that are fashionable yet uniquely Soweto, festival goers will have access to the market place set up in the theatre complex curated by organisers to include local vendors from Soweto and surrounding areas.

Each day of the festival will feature its own theme:

Day 1: Celebration Of Our Future

The Celebration of our Future instalment will kick off the festivities with a commitment to the empowerment of young people in Soweto. In the spirit of remarkable revolutionaries like Hector Pieterson, the day is designed to empower and engage the aspiring musicians and entrepreneurs of Soweto. The day’s event will do more than entertain, it will educate and inspire with a free symposium dedicated to the business of music and entertainment.

Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Rico Love will launch an educational programme designed to engage young people who aspire to be a part of the music industry.

“I Love Music Africa” workshops will take place during the day and the evening music celebration will feature an amazing line-up of artists, DJs, dancers and social media influencers. Performers include Nasty C, Raheem Devaughn, Major League and DJ Rob Dinero.

Day 2: Power of Women

The second day will be dedicated to the empowerment of women. It will boast workshops in the morning on themes such as Fearless Women, Health, Strength and Wellness and Mining Your Own Business. These workshops will enable women to present and share ideas on driving success. Grammy Award-winning artist Deborah Cox and SABC executive Iris Cupido are among the panellists.

The evening’s main stage will feature Africa Umoja, Sho Madjozi, Lady Zamar, Deborah Cox and Dumpstafunk.

Day 3: International Night

The third day will spotlight South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, US, Canada, Jamaica and the UK.

Soweto’s esteemed journalists will host an informative day with VIP artist interview panels, acoustic performances and media broadcasts.

The evening’s concert will highlight multiple genres of music including jazz, R&B, funk, reggae and dance. We will see performances from Marion Meadows, the Neville Brothers, Charlie Wilson, Mutabuka, Spyro Gyro, and Third World.

Day 4: Inspiration

Day Four of the festival will feature a line-up of jazz and gospel acts to cement the incredible celebration of music culture.

We will continue to focus on cultural exchange programmes allowing fans to gain access to the hearts and minds of some the most celebrated artists.

The evening concert will have performances by Mi Casa, Cyril Neville, Ernie Smith and many more.

“The festival is designed to help create connectivity among people of the African diaspora and celebrate the indomitable spirit of Soweto and its people,” says Ernest Kelly, managing partner of International Arts Solution and executive producer of the festival.

Tickets are available online from or from any Pick 'n Pay store and Webtickets. Tickets may also be bought at the Soweto Theatre, Joburg Theatre and Roodepoort Theatre.