2019 Cape Town International Jazz Festival will bring Africa together
Father and son duo Steve and Bokani Dyer have collaborated to create a new South African sound. They're one of the acts at the 20th CTIJF next weekend
Mahube, a musical collaboration of rich and diverse sounds of Southern Africa, plays at the 20th consecutive Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) later this month.
During the '80s SA saxophonist Steve Dyer went into exile, living in Zimbabwe and Botswana, where his son Bokani was born in 1986. Bokani grew up surrounded by exiled artists and musicians.
Dyer formed the first large-scale Southern African regional music collaborative band, Mahube, in 1997. Mahube means "new dawn" in Tswana, and was a meeting of the rich and diverse sounds of musicians from all over the region, symbolising the time of transition and optimism that was then the New SA.
Bokani has developed into an established jazz pianist and with his father has created the music business Dyer-tribe to publish, record, direct, conceptualise and produce music.
Explained Dyer: "Mahube came about when Bokani said, 'Look dad, you have this concept but what about using fresh voices and reshaping it into something that reflects modern trends?'."
Mahube was relaunched at the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) in 2017 with a seamless musical collaboration combining the rhythms and textures of the region with a horn section and the unique vocal styles of four singers.
We hear the melodic scat-infused expression of Joburg singer/trombonist Siya Makuzeni, the soaring traditional Zulu vocals of Mbuso Khoza, the gentle meeting of mbira (thumba piano) and jazz from Zimbabwean Hope Masike, and the samba infused Indian Ocean rhythms of singer and dancer, Mozambican Xixel Langa.
"Mahube is fluid. The intention is to be a voice for the region. We are not dictated by geographical borders. The idea is to get as broad a palette of musical content as possible," says Dyer.
Mahube's ideals of a new dawn and regeneration through cultural harmony are still relevant in the recent and current political climate of corruption, greed and short-sightedness.
"It is easy to complain about the fact that the present is held hostage by the past, but it is more difficult to start defining a new future through the prism of what has gone on. That is my aim," says Dyer.
Mahube will open the outside stage at the CTIJF, adding a love for traditional music to the jazz-defining attributes of spontaneity and innovation that characterise the festival.
Festival director Billy Domingo enthused, "We embrace the different genres of music from the continent. The whole of the continent has become our playground in the sense that we have so much to choose from. We all sing from the same hymn sheet and play from the same drum."
The festival has an open-minded and inclusive balance in programming with 40 distinct and diverse performances across five stages over two days. The programme is selected by a panel comprising an internal talent department of writers, radio presenters, musicians and artist managers.
The programme is steeped in Cape Jazz and this year features legends from the '60s, pianist Ebrahim Kalil Shihab and saxophonist Morris Goldberg, up-and-coming stars sax man Don Vino and guitar virtuoso Reza Khota, and Jonathan Butler.
With its strong regional audience the event delivers the best of urban music - this year's performances include the jazz sound of Joburg's Herbie Tsoaeli's African Time collaboration as well as funksters BCUC and rapper Sho Madjozi.
Among the international headliners are Chaka Khan, John Scofield and Gipsy Kings.
The passing of Zimbabwean music legend Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi will be commemorated by South African singer/songwriter Vusi "The Voice" Mahlasela, together with performers from Mtukudzi's training academy Pakare Arts Centre in Chivero.
Having grown from 5,000 music lovers in the opening year to a year-on-year capacity crowd of almost 40,000 people, the CTIJF is a joyful experience of social cohesion. Audiences flow from stage to stage, sharing thoughts and ideas, and celebrating the diverse cultures through music.
For the musicians it's a great event to be a part of, with all the beautiful conversations and experiences of the festival leading up to late-night jam sessions at the hotel.
However, with a R500m economic impact on the city and a contribution of 3,000 new jobs annually, the festival has become more than just a musical event.
As Domingo said: "We are looking to the whole future of the entertainment industry in SA."
The festival provides the Pan-African creative industry with a rich learning context in a diversity of skills and career possibilities, from music and careers workshops, photography and arts journalism courses to music master classes and year-long music education and outreach programmes.
• The CTIJF takes place on March 29 and 30. Visit capetownjazzfest.com