Jazzing it up in Cape Town

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March 31, 2011 – As fans gazed up at the stage with starry eyes, Dave Koz blew his saxophone until I thought his face would somehow come apart.

However, instead of that happening all that was evident was a mind-blowing love and energy for his most loyal fans on the continent, in Cape Town.

Fancy lights played tricks behind Dave, emphasising his vigour that was well rewarded by ear-piercing screams at the packed Kippies stage – the main stage at the Cape Town International Jazz festival this past weekend.

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Koz, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was definitely the show-stopper for most. It was his second time to feature in Cape Town and in an interview with Capital Lifestyle at the Pepper Club, he expressed delight to be part of the festivities.

His stated that his ultimate collabo of choice is with Gospel and RnB man Bebe Winans, who turned out to be interview-shy. However his voice was strong and dazzling as he joined Dave on stage for ‘The Dance’, literally singing the crowd to euphoria.

They (Bebe and Dave) were only two of more than 40 artists who performed in Cape Town on March 25 -26, as more than 34,000 turned up to ogle them and bask in their musical aptitude. With names like Earth, Wind and Fire, Hugh Masekela, Esperanza Spalding, Hanjin, Youssou Ndour and Simphiwe, no one could fault the massive crowds for showing up?

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Gazelle represented South Africa with definite aplomb in one of the outdoor stages – The Bassline – whose personality was suited for the slightly controversial in message and sound. Just before Gazelle’s lead singer Nick Matthews belted out tunes that outdid his candid Mobutu-looking outfit, flanked by his Invisible DJ who killed it on the keytar, was American Monique Bingham.

It was her first time in Africa and she promised to kiss the earth while she was there. Her “hello motherland” moment gave way to an emotional performance on Saturday night, where she sang the song ‘Babies Fighting Babies’ from her upcoming album.

“It was inspired by the story of a Congolese girl that I saw on TV,” she said to Capital Lifestyle, pausing for a moment to hold back tears. “We have child soldiers killing other children for a fight that has nothing to do with them. Isn’t there something very wrong with that picture?”

Her performance was as passionate; infusing house music and reggae beats to make her version of jazz for her beloved audience.

Earth, Wind and Fire had a show on each day of the festival. I can say that despite being a little stiff, Philip Bailey (lead vocals) has still got it, Verdine White (bass guitar) has still got it and so does Ralph Johnson (vocals). An amazing 40-year career tucked in their belts, EWF had everything to ‘Celebrate’.

Senegalese Youssou Ndour kept the spirits up with his very own hype-man, though several people surprised themselves by singing to most of his songs, dancing and waving their arms left – right – left. There was something for everyone, even Guitafrika for the deep and soulful jazz lovers.

Guitafrika is a three-man guitar tag team of sorts with string influences from South Africa, Niger and Mauritius. Steve Newman, Alhousseini Mohammed Anivola and Eric Triton (respectively) were nothing less than impressive.

Around the concerts, artists posed for pictures with fans who caught them at that awkward moments as they ate or waited for transport outside hotels.

Though there were thousands present at the uber-massive Cape Town International Conference Centre, the venue of the Jazz Fest, the loos were kept clean and the food and drinks kept flowing. Kudos!

You can follow the author on Twitter: @lwalubengo.

 

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