Bokani Dyer’s project will set mood at Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Bokani Dyer is a jazz musician. l NOKUTHULA MBATHA

Bokani Dyer is a jazz musician. l NOKUTHULA MBATHA

Published Mar 23, 2024


Bokani Dyer’s new Radio Sechaba album project is on a mission to make us expand our minds and sets the mood for an uplifting, yet thoroughly thought provoking Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

In a departure from his previous work, critically acclaimed pianist, composer, and producer, Bokani Dyer, will be bringing a seven-piece ensemble to play at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) this May.

Radio Sechaba, in Dyer’s own words, is less geared to a concert hall or a jazz club but more easily translatable into a bigger stage and outdoor experience.

The project draws inspiration from Nina Simone’s famous quote, “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times”, which Dyer has interpreted in Radio Sechaba through his exploration of “what makes a nation in the current moment in South Africa”.

That this multi award-winning artist has created a new project around nation building, unity and identity is no surprise.

Dyer was born in 1986 in Gaborone, Botswana, where many artists from South Africa, including his father, musician Steve Dyer, were living in exile.

His family moved back to South Africa when he was a child where, as the son of a black mother from Botswana and a white South African father, he has long been interrogating issues of identity and nation building.

The album, recorded over four years and released on the prestigious Brownswood Recordings label, will form the crux of the performance at the CTIJF, and will give audiences an opportunity to explore Dyer’s new narrative of building community rather than all getting behind the one flag of a nation.

In a recent interview, he shared that, “nations can be destructive – what we see is people rallying together behind a flag and sometimes that flag does not represent the full story”.

“It got me thinking about what this whole nation thing means, so I am refining and thinking more about community building.”

Aside from the big sound that comes with a seven-piece that includes drums, bass, guitar, and not one, but two trumpets, Radio Sechaba at CTIJF will present two vocalists, one of which is Dyer himself.

Of singing on the album and at the upcoming CTIJF to thousands of people, Dyer says that singing has empowered him,“using language tells a specific story – the songwriting is a literary work somewhere between a short story and a poem, and for me it’s a way to speak to people in words, and putting those to music is a powerful medium to communicate in a direct way, which feels very empowering”.

Radio Sechaba’s CTIJF ensemble is a veritable who’s who of current South African jazz performers, whose individual credentials are impressive. Together, they will make for a compelling and empowering experience.

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival takes place on May 3 and 4 at the CTICC.