August 19, 2011 – It is that time of the year when Johannesburg jives, bops and boogies to the smooth sounds of live jazz as the Joy of Jazz Festival takes to the stage from its headquarters in the Newtown Precinct.
It’s four days of sexy creativity, excitement, self expression and warmth. And it draws thousands of jazz fans both from Johannesburg and from further afield. People flock to the Joy of Jazz Festival from all over South Africa and they come in droves from our neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique and even from African countries further away like Nigeria, Kenya and Angola. They all come to Joburg for the Jazz. And if they make the pilgrimage once, it’s almost certain they return year after year after year.
Jazz lovers from all over come to worship at the feet of jazz legends… or legends in the making and one such legend is Tu Nokwe. She has the DNA of one of South Africa’s greatest musical families. She released her debut album, Inyakanyaka in 1996. Her distinctive style combines New Age African, spiritual, and Afro-jazz funk. Tu is a well-travelled performer and has delighted audiences around the world with her fabulous live shows.
While she is well-travelled, Tu still has two favourite places in the city of gold; the Newtown Precinct and the Greenside coffee society in this charming village in the north of Johannesburg.
Music is one of a country’s uniquely distinctive features and nowhere in South Africa is the jazz industry’s vivacious cultural and lifestyle influence and ethnic energy more evident than in the Newtown Precinct. The Newtown Precinct in recent years has become a cultural hub in South Africa and a tourist hotspot. Major attractions include the Museum Africa and the Market Theater. However jazz lovers can stop by Horror Cafe (music and street poetry), Songwriter’s Club, Carfax and the Bassline. “My favourite spot is Sophiatown in Newtown, especially on Saturday nights to mingle with different kinds of people, watch and listen to local quality music by young bands” says Tu.
Greenside is one of Joburg’s favourite weekend destinations, with streets lined with some of the city’s best eateries. The area is renowned for its lifestyle and décor shopping and is one of the best places to spend an early-spring Johannesburg afternoon. The streets are best explored on foot and over a few hours; exploring every store and stopping for pavement-side refreshments and snacks along the way.
On asking Tu what inspires her music about Joburg, she responds “the way jazz is loosely interpreted allows freedom of musical expression, simplicity, confidence and creative license to experiment with the blend of different genres.”
Many of South Africa’s great Jazz musicians have performed and found fame in Newtown. The Joy of Jazz 2011 will bring South Africa’s great musicians back to Newtown as they perform in seven venues this year; Conga Stage which is the brand new main stage featuring upbeat jazz and world music, Dinaledi stage, Mbira Stage, Bassline, Sophiatown, Shikisha and Nikki’s Oasis.
Another Jazz legend to look out for is Simphiwe Dana an award‐winning singer whose albums have triumphed on both the local and international music charts. Her music is captivating and captures the hearts of those listening to it. Her third album released in 2010; Kulture Noir ‐ has been receiving praise from all over world.
Simphiwe’s favourite spot in Johannesburg is Emmarentia and in particular the Botanic Gardens. The beautiful vast green surroundings are popular with picnickers, cyclists and runners. On weekends the sloped grass embankments are filled with those taking part in picnics or braais. Emmarentia Dam (adjacent to the Botanic Gardens) is another great spot to enjoying canoeing, sailing and wind surfing.
Simipwe says she is deeply inspired by the people of Johannesburg. “This is a very cosmopolitan city. Parts of Johannesburg are deeply, and deliciously, African. And parts of it are very European. The mix of cultures, styles, languages, forms of expression is a pressure cooker for creativity. I love this city.”
South African Tourism is once again supporting the Joburg Joy of Jazz this year so as to promote the country as a lifestyle destination to its overseas and in particular African markets. “We at South African Tourism are excited to support the 2011 Standard Bank Joy of Jazz and it will serve as a platform for South Africa to showcase Johannesburg as a music capital and South Africans as warm and welcoming people. Music is such an integral part of our culture and who we are and we are pleased to share our diversity, creativity and heritage with the rest of the world,” says Sugen Pillay, Global Manager: Events at South African Tourism.
Pillay adds that the Joy of Jazz also presents an opportunity for South Africa to showcase its Arts and Culture and Africa’s greatest and most cosmopolitan city.
The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Joburg Festival takes place between from August 24 to 27. Musicians to watch out for include include legendary American jazz great Wynton Marsails as well as Dee Dee Bridgewater and McCoy Tyner, South African greats Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo and African musicians Nigeria’s Olufemi, Angola’s Bonga and Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi.