Singer Jill Scott will be performing at the Essence Festival Durban this weekend.
Singer Jill Scott will be performing at the Essence Festival Durban this weekend.

Essence Festival Durban was officially launched today at a press briefing in the city’s ICC. The briefing was attended by Bishop TD Jakes, America politician and activist, Andrew Young, Essence magazine editor in chief Vanessa De Luca and South Africa’s Nomzamo Mbatha.

Now in its second year in Durban, Essence Festival is a week long festival that includes musical concerts, business development engagements, youth summits and more, and is regarded as a celebration of black culture, black excellence and development.

“Durban is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and last year we had more than 61 000 people attend Essence and we want to build on that foundation. South Africa is the perfect backdrop for cultural exchange because of its diversity and we are very excited for this years festival”, De Luca said.

With just 500 tickets still on sale for his concert with local gospel group Joyous Celebration, TD Jakes said he was excited to be preaching in Durban and that people should expect to have fun. “Let me say very transparently that I take my trip here very seriously and always have. I see myself as a man on a mission and when I come to places where I have a rare opportunity to speak, I do a lot of deep thinking, studying and prayer. You can expect me to preach something that is uplifting, but also relevant to the environment. I am not interested at this stage in my life in feel good messages that create temporary euphoria and spiritual enthusiasm just to have our people go home and then be frustrated. I really want to inch our people forward from the platform that God has given me and to take the faith and use it as fuel to energise your dreams”, said TD Jakes.

Head of Durban Tourism, Philip Sithole said that putting together the festival was an ongoing learning process but that soon, the festival will speak to the continent and not just South Africa. “We would love to see other artists from the rest of the continent participating and also seeing more people from the rest of Africa attending the festival. We have sister cities and some of those cities are participating, we have delegations from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. However in terms of artists, we are still growing the festival itself so we are learning as we go along, we know that we need to make some changes from last year but the intention is to have the festival feel completely African in terms of the performances and people who take part and we even want to open it to our BRICS partners. So we have heard and we will make it happen”, he said. In terms of the musical lineup, De Luca said that the lineup was curated by the fans of the festival. “The beauty of having access to people digitally is that we have an opportunity for the audience to speak back to us and tell us and also engage with us who they would like to see. This is the same process we go through when we are doing the Essence Festival in New Orleans. So the minute the actual festival is over, we invite the audience to tell us who they loved, who they loved and who they would like to see - the same happens for the Durban festival and we really listen, we don't just gather information and use it for marketing purposes”, De Luca said. Audiences will enjoys performances by JIll Scott, Nasty C, Babes Wodumo and more.