Review – Barney Rachabane: Family ties warm up Grahamstown

2013-07-06 12:06

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Jazz lovers braved the bitter cold to witness Barney Rachabane channel the magic of shared musical genes at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

The elder saxophonist stepped on stage with a sextet that included three generations of his family. Apart from himself on alto sax, there was the youngest of his daughters, Octavia Rachabane, on vocals and Oscar Rachabane, who handled the tenor saxophone.

The old-grooves man is now in his 70s and still plays with daring and imagination. Clad in a colourful Italian style shirt, large shades and an Irish cap, he was visibly joyful, like a man finally realising a long-held dream. Rachabane spoke of how he once hoped to share the stage with his late son.

He was a saxman too. That dream was partly realised through Oscar, his grandson, on the tenor horn.

Kinship on the jazz stage has often made for great moments of rapport, which have produced great music. South African jazz history is littered with examples of family bonds that have translated into great jazz productions. This is the magic the hip timer Rachabane was hoping for on Thursday night.

He was aligning with efforts like that of the Schilder brothers, Tony, Richard, Jackie, Philip and Chris. Their place in our musical memory is indisputable. Then there’s the Ngcukana brothers, Ezra, Cyril, Fitzroy, Claude, and Duke.

Steve Dyer and his Standard Bank Young Artist award-winning son, Bokani Dyer, have also invoked the magic of blood relations on the band stand.

They shouldn’t be confused with the Dyers, Errol and Alvin, whose contribution to our music is remarkable too.

So when old man Rachabane called on his daughter, Octavia, to join the band for two tunes, a ballad titled A Man Needs a Woman and an interpretation of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s classic composition, Take the “A” Train, Rachabane was aligning his efforts with a great jazz tradition.

The audience was just as pleased with the other members of his band, Solly Mokolobate on bass and drummer Bacco Xaba – whose sense of rhythm and time was well matched by Mohau Mokoena, whose piano lines made the performance unforgettable.

The call and response patterns that animated the exchanges between man and grandson was nothing short of admirable. It was testimony to the joy music can bring in spite of the bitter cold of the small settler town hosting it.

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