Thabo Rangwaga, Nonni Kubeka, Nomsa Mazwai, Nolan Baynes, Ernie Smith, Martins at the Soweto International Jazz Festival press junket. Picture: Supplied

Soweto is gearing up for a new music extravaganza called The Soweto International Jazz Festival that will also be used to showcase local artists and teach organising skills to the locals to enable them to create a strong economic hub.
The festival, to be staged from June 14 to 17, was launched this week and aims to tap into the township’s rich history and connect it to the rest of the world. It will also be a tribute to Hugh Masekela and commemorate Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Organiser Nolan Baynes of International Arts Solutions said music is a gate-breaker and a connector.

“The connector is us being able to present a product that will let Americans and people in our diaspora know that there is commonality in us and it starts with music.”

The organisers are also creating a platform for South African artists to match, collaborate and create fusions with like-minded people around the world.

“Especially in these times when things are really serious and when people of the African diaspora should be joining our energies and resources together to make a statement, I think it starts with music,” added Baynes.

He pointed out the need to diversify their music offerings and include different genres that speak to the rich musical culture found in South Africa, such as jazz and rap.

Different days will carry different themes, with day one's being The Celebration of our Future. The evening concert will be headlined by performers such as Nasty-C, Raheem Devaughn, Major Leagues and DJ Rob Dinero feat. Kreesha.

Day two will be geared towards empowering women. On the main stage on the evening will be Africa Umoja, Sho Madjozi, Lady Zamar, Deborah Cox, and Dumpstaphunk. The Soweto Stage will host Jeremiah Fyah Isis, Leanne Dlamini, Irving Mayfield, Zamajobe and Bob Jones.

Day three is dubbed International Night and the spotlight will be on South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, the US, Canada, Jamaica and the UK. In the evening multiple genres will be highlighted, including jazz, R&B, funk, reggae and dance, with performances by Marion Meadows, Neville Brothers, Charlie Wilson, Mutabaruka, Spyro Gyra and Third World.

The final day features a line-up of jazz and gospel acts, with performances by Mi Casa, Cyril Neville, Irving Mayfield and Ernie Smith, to name a few.

“We are going to develop this concept for three years to make sure that we get our infrastructure correct, our curation correct and solidify our partners to make sure this can live for a long time. The idea is not only to keep it here but we want to export this to New York, the New Orleans, etc.,” said Baynes.

General manager of Soweto Theatre Nomsa Mazwai said: “As the Soweto Theatre, we are incredibly excited about this festival and about the partnership. We look forward to the opportunities it is going to create, the ideas it is going to ignite, the minds that it will enable to think differently.”

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


The Sunday Independent