Joy wins the day at jazz fest

2013-04-07 10:01

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It took a Spanish pianist and one of South Africa’s elders of jazz to set the Cape Town International Jazz Festival alight – but once the fire started, there was no putting it out. Percy Mabandu reports.

Tens of thousands of people, decked out in their finest, and ready to lose themselves in some excellent music, descended on the Cape Town International Convention Centre as the sky darkened over the Mother City on Friday.

But something crucial was missing as the festival slowly rumbled to life: joy.

One young concertgoer expressed it well as I stalked the corridors of the convention centre, trying to make an appearance at each of the five stages that, over the course of Friday and yesterday, were scheduled to hold 40 live acts.

Stacey (we didn’t swap last names) made a telling observation: “This place looks like an airport terminal tonight. These people don’t seem like they are at a music festival. They even wear the glazed look of strangers in transit.”

Her parting shot: “Where is the joy?”

She was right. The air was not humming with excited voices to accompany the buzz of excellent music.

There was just the sound of slapping shoe soles and the polite murmurs of people trying not to disturb anyone.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and partner were stoic as they watched proceedings on the Rosies stage.

Maybe it was the tough security detail that stole the joy Stacey was missing.

Security guards in red golf shirts were ably supported by men in grey suits, fitted with earpieces and carrying hand-held metal detectors.

In a statement issued late on Friday, festival organisers said that about 1?000 of the 35?000 tickets sold were fake.

They vowed not to let fake ticket holders through the door, and this meant an extra check for each jazz lover as they arrived.

Reunited kwaito stars Mafikizolo kicked things off and were warmly welcomed.

But it was only at around 9.45pm that things suddenly came to life.

A Spanish trio, led by pianist Chano Dominguez, began clawing and reaching at the edges of something ethereal on the Rosies stage.

Dominguez more than tips his cap to the late jazz giant Miles Davis: he works tunes from Davis’ historic Kind of Blues album in the flamenco tradition.

People started to cheer and holler, shouting their approval.

Meanwhile, on the Kippies stage, the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, featuring Omara Portuondo, were igniting a few sparks of their own.

Elder statesman Louis Moholo and his quintet, and Afrika Mhkize with his seven-piece band, pulled the final nail from the coffin and brought the sombre place to life.

Maybe Stacey and I had been too harsh.

Another friendly stroller pointed out that soundproofing might have been the reason the convention centre’s corridors had felt so funereal.

Maybe the slouching, sad travellers between stages were those who hadn’t planned their festival carefully enough and were simply overwhelmed by all the choices.

And, with popular acts like Thandiswa Mazwai, Jill Scott and Khuli Chana due on stage yesterday, and the flames now licking ever higher, it was clear that joy was back in the house.

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