Shehkinah. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

Africa's grandest gathering got off to a great start early evening Friday as thousands of eager jazz fans queued peacefully to gain access to the CTICC.

Devotees arrived from far and wide - not only the Mother City and outlying towns but  from Durban, Jo'burg, Port Elizabeth and more - to hear their favourite artists. Fans also travelled down from Namibia, Swaziland, Germany and France. Some, like Eva Mitteneder from Namibia, said  it was an annual pilgrimage to get her "yearly dose of jazz, jazz and more jazz".

The main concourse was crowded as festinos gathered to greet old friends and figure out what to see first.

Mahube's traditional beats infused with more contemporary sounds got a large crowd going with some really infectious rhythms. Veteran saxophonist Steve Dyer proved his mettle as he delivered some seriously brilliant solos accompanied by the rest of the 10 piece band. 

The beats of Africa were acknowledged by vocalists in a range of numbers celebrating the continent, led by Hope Ruvimbo Masike, Mbuso Khosza and Onesia Muholove. 

Next door at Kippies stage, the award-winning Steve Kekana had a swelled audience swaying to some of his favourite hits. Feel so Strong was a definite winner which fans lapped up, singing along to the well-loved words and beats delivered by a strong band and vocalists.

Meanwhile, local singing sensation Shekhinah took to the Bassline stage and brought the house down.

Opening with "Hey Mister," the Durban-born R&B singer made her presence known as her powerful voice radiated through the venue. Within seconds she had the crowd eating from the palm of her hand as they sang to every song. It's not hard to see why she's blown up over the past few years - her music speaks to the masses - young and old.

Leading into the crowd pleaser, "Let You Know," it didn't take long for her to feed off her fans' energy - a synchronised symphony that's hard to encompass.

Yes, Shekhinah came, she saw and she conquered the Bassline stage. And chances are, she's converted quite a few of non believers who doubted her vocal talent. Hopefully, she'll make it back next year with even more aplomb.

Rosies stage is the best place to sit and relax and, listening to the fascinating sounds issue forth from the Indian Bickram Ghosh Quartet offered the opportunity to exhale and take in some gloriously innovative and unusual music. 

He certainly lives up to the description of a "pioneering  force in the world of experimental fusion music" and among his influences he counts Ravi Shankar. 
We were treated to some deft playing on tabla and drums where a fabulous mix of Western infused with Oriental plays tribute to Ghosh and his talented group's  Indian roots. 

Amusing moments as drum beats teamed up not with bass but "face" as Ghosh drummed his fingers on his cheeks and coaxed out the most amazing and melodic sounds.

The Mike Rossi Project led by respected music professor and astute musician Rossi showed that improvisation and synchronicity work perfectly as his group put out some superb numbers from acclaimed album Journey, among others.

It was a joy to also be treated to American trombonist John Fedchock who offered some of his own compositions which complemented and at times highlighted the rest of the accomplished playing. 

Probably not her best performance, due to sound issues, but soul diva Chaka Khan soldiered on, with the help of her backup singers and band.
Taking to the Kippies stage, she opened with classic, "This Is My Night". 

The main performance of the night, she took a while to get into her stride, and the crowd felt it. Some bystanders were complaining about the sound while others were waiting for that 100% Chaka. But die hard fans were not disappointed. With a career spanning more than 40 years, she knows how to get the crowd moving, and soon they too were dancing around to her greatest hits. 

It's a shame though that her set was one of the last, but that didn't stop her from playing to a full house. Whether you're a fan or not, you can't deny the soul sister still has the goods to prove why she's one of the greatest performers of our generation. 


* Shows to watch out for on Saturday:

  • Jonathan Butler Home Coming : 7.15pm Kippies
  • Rezaei Khota Quartet: Moses Molelekwa Auditorium 7.30pm
  • Gipsy Kings: 9.30pm Kippies 
  • Tuku Music:  A celebration of Oliver Mtukudzi's Life through his Music: Kippies 11.5pm