Share this article

Rocking Joy of Jazz ends on a high note


The curtain came down on this year’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz on a high, with all four stages of the Sandton Convention Centre rocking for several hours.
From Alune Wade’s pan-African ensemble on the Conga Stage to Kendrick Scott on Diphala, Sibongile Khumalo on Dinaledi and Ringo Madlingozi and Judith Sephuma on Mbira – all four stages reverberated with jazz, blues and African-infused sounds that kept the crowds on their feet.
The mass movement of music lovers from stage to stage added to the excitement. But first things first. Senegalese jazz guitarist Alune Wade proved on Saturday night that he was not described as “a virtuoso bass player and singer with a voice of an angel” for nothing.
The haunting flute, trumpet and piano sounds filled up the stage as he and his band dished out French-infused music. A rich mix of sound from his travels around the continent and the world had the crowd overjoyed.
Perched on a high stool with a portable mbira, he had the crowd singing along and dancing to some of his beautiful tunes.
Sibongile Khumalo, meanwhile, was working her magic on Dinaledi. Her latest offering, “Breath of Life”, which was inspired by the birth of her grandchild six years ago, was mesmerising, as was the rest of her playlist delivered mostly in refreshing Zulu. Calm and soothing, “The Call” was an invitation to South Africa and Africa to unite.
On the Mbira stage, where former president Thabo Mbeki and his wife, Zanele, were cheered loudly after Ringo acknowledged them, the mood was pumping. Ringo’s passion and energy when delivering the all-time favourites was infectious. And the room was packed.
That continued well into the night when Sephuma took over the stage. She and her band were in all white, bright, cheerful and full of song and dance. A reggae jam from her latest album sent the crowd into a frenzy. Hit after hit, she had the crowd eating from the palm of her hand. Palesa, a tribute to her late daughter, was amazing, while Glory ended the performance on a high note.
New York musician Jose James, dubbed the jazz singer for the hip-hop generation, did not disappoint, cursing US presidential candidate Donald Trump during his spoken-word part of the performance. His compatriot, Kendrick Scott, brought some intensity on the Diphala stage, highlighting his strength as a drummer, composer and leader.
South African-born Jonathan Butler and American smooth jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright capped the 19th edition of one of the oldest jazz festivals, backed by the City of Johannesburg and a host of other sponsors, with an energetic and inspired one hour-long performance just after midnight.
Friday night belonged to South African artists. It was standing-room only on the Conga stage, where Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse whipped up a storm with flurry of golden hits, with the crowds calling for more.
Lira on the Mbira stage was simply fun-tastic as was gumboot-dancer wannabe Wouter Kellerman on the Conga stage.
McCoy Mrubata, performing on the Dinaledi stage, showed why he was regarded as “the real McCoy” of South African jazz with some real-red hot tunes. He so really enjoyed entertaining the fans, belting out one gem after another, that the organisers had to send an aide to the stage in the middle of a song to whisper to him that his allocated time had long expired.
You could tell he was not a happy man, but the show had to go on. And it did, and every one had a blast!