From Thursday, music lovers from all walks of life will be heading to the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani for the first Soweto International Jazz Festival.
Power of Women, Inspiration Night and Celebration of our Future are some of the themes that will define the celebration of the music forms loved in the township. The last one is particularly relevant, says organiser Nolan Baynes of International Arts Solutions, because the festival coincides with Youth Day.
As a result, the programme is fresh and genre-blurring. Visitors will be jamming along to local artists, including Lady Zamar, who took the gong for best dance album at the SA Music Awards last week, gospel star Khaya Mthethwa, Mi Casa, rapper Nasty C, soul star Zamajobe, jazzy R&B king Ernie Smith and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
“We want young people to see themselves represented. We want people who can afford to buy a ticket and to support local vendors to generate revenue in Soweto,” said Baynes, adding that there would be significant free tickets and discounted tickets for Soweto residents.
But the festival is aimed at the entire city – the entire planet, in fact. International Night will also feature a multigenre line-up, among them Grammy winners, including Deborah Cox, Third World, Bob James, Spyro Gyra, The Neville Brothers and, in his first performance in South Africa, R&B legend Charlie Wilson.
“We love jazz, but the economic reality of a purely jazz line-up is limited in scope. We are attempting to duplicate the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Newport Jazz Fest or Montreal Jazz Fest models,” said Baynes.
After attending an event at the Soweto Theatre last year, his plan to host a jazz fest became an imperative. His ultimate goal is “to have Pan-African, American and European music fans descending on Soweto”.
But, ultimately, Baynes told City Press, the dream is to present a festival that highlights the diverse and rich spirit of Soweto.
The event runs from 14 to 17 June at the Soweto Theatre. Tickets are available from sowetotheatre.com, Webtickets and Pick n Pay outlets.