That was a sign last Friday 25th March that greeted people at the entrance to the Cape Town International Convention Centre where the 12th Cape Town International Jazz Festival was hosted.
The sign had the effect of making music lovers fortunate enough to have bought a ticket in time feel a little more special.
Africa’s Grandest Gathering was about to commence bringing out old school jazz hip cats like Hugh Masekela; new jazz legends like Esperanza Spalding; serious jazz musicians like Wayne Shorter; South African art pop phenomenon Gazelle; Brooklyn New York’s house music trio Tortured Soul and German nu-jazz outfit Jazzanova.
The variety of artists could be somewhat overwhelming for the uninitiated.
However, a notable nuance was the generous amount of African artists in the festival programme. Youssou NDour, Sandra Cordeiro, Victor Masondo, Tumi & The Volume, Guitafrika, Ivan Mazuze, Simpiwe Dana, Don Laka and many, many more African artists shared the heritage of the continent with over thirty thousand festival goers.
Another African artist with particular relevance to Botswana was our very own music Zebra Ntsholeng ‘Citie’ Seetso, appropriately wearing our winning national football side’s team jersey for the performance.
Taking the stage with typical Setswana reserve, Citie and his nine member band, which included guitar maestro John Selowane, wasted no time in making the jazz fans embrace the warmth of Botswana jazz music. If summer picnics and good times with family and friends ever had a sound track along with the occasional “ARE YOU THERE!?” this would be it.
However, on this mild Cape Town evening outdoors on the Manenberg stage under a clear warm African night with a gentle breeze, the music ebbed and flowed straight from Citie’s bass guitar to ears and hearts in the audience.
A scheduling overlap with Esperanza Spalding and festival headline act Earth Wind & Fire drew a portion of the crowd away. Luckily the almost constant coverage of Citie’s set on all festival screens in other parts of the venue gave the over thirty thousand music lovers from all over the world an opportunity to sample Botswana’s musical delights.
A bass player as the lead in a band isn’t the most common configuration, but bass players this year were making themselves heard as Best New Artists Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding also featured on the more serious auditorium stage called Rosie’s.
Spalding commanded serious media attention as people were still trying to adjust to the idea of greatness in the making being recognised so early on, as is the case in the young upright bass player’s career. A very warm and witty Spalding also pointed out the roots of her success and achievement.
“…my Mom taught me from the beginning, by default, the joy of becoming proficient at something from working,” she said.
For the tone deaf there was also the fact that Esperanza Spalding is a very beautiful looking young woman with a huge unkempt tousle of a lioness mane crowning her head.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has become a not-to-be-missed calendar event in Cape Town’s busy entertainment agenda and is indeed recognised as the fourth largest festival of its kind in the world. During a press briefing with Angolan festival director, Antonio Crist├│v├úo about another espAfrika co-production, the Luanda International Jazz Festival, Billy Domingo, festival director and co owner of espAfrika, said, “We have built it, it works now; I wanna do something else so we are taking this (festival concept) to the rest of Africa.”
Domingo proceeded to invite everyone, through the media present, to come to the inaugural Jazz Rocks Botswana festival set for end of September 2011. The local partners Fenominal Drops were then introduced to the press as represented by Moratiwa Molema and Mpho Laing; absent was Masego Matlhabaphiri who is also a director in the wholly woman owned company.
GabzFM’s Jazz guru Uncle Shima Monageng was also recognised as a valuable partner to the coming music festival through the Botswana Event Promoters Association (BEPA) of which Monageng is an executive member.
Amongst the 5 stages and over 40 live acts there was a mini expo featuring a presentation by Botswana Tourism Organisation meant to take the opportunity to give Festinos (Festival tourists) an introduction to Botswana; where the next ‘All Tickets Sold Out’ world class musical performances can soon be expected.