I have found the South African Michael Jackson. Well, ok, not entirely… However the man definitely knew how to strike a pose. Aside from that, Selaelo Selota had a powerful presence that cannot be ignored. While conducting his drummer’s every accent, Selota also summoned some anthemic chants from his audience. Categorized as jazz, Selota echoed an r&b and soul vibe too—with African rhythms and melodies to thicken the sound of course.
The first night of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival was an intimate showcase featuring some of the Festival’s heavy-hitters all on one stage: Abdullah Ibrahim, Amina Figarova, and our own Terence Blanchard. Blanchard’s Miles Davis -like horn melodies and short, shrieking bursts of power certainly elevated him to one of the crowd favorites. Starting with Ibrahim, Figarova, and Blanchard made it clear this Festival was not to be taken lightly.
On both Friday and Saturday night hoards of people filtered through the security lanes to see 34 acts on nine unique stages. Those acts included international artists such as the Tango Jazz Quartet from Argentina: whose use of the clarinet entranced even the skeptical.
And lest we forget the New Orleans contingent! The Batistes, Kid Merv, James Andrews, Donald Harrison, and the aforementioned Terence Blanchard all represented New Orleans in the finest way possible. Being the true New Orleanians they are, they greeted the Mayor of Johannesburg, Mpho Parks Tau, and Executive Producer of Joy of Jazz, Peter Tladi, with Mardi Gras throws. It was quite the entrance the night before the Festival.
If there’s one thing I learned from this Festival, it’s that the world loves New Orleans music! The Satchmo Summit with Merv and Andrews was a perfect example of this: with full audience-engagment, Andrews had no trouble getting volunteers for an on-stage dance-off. Harrison’s set was also danceable with something close to King Curtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew” with Joe Dyson and Max Moran laying the foundation (per usual).
Of course, what could a Festival be without its local support? South African artist, Tshepo Fela—whose image struck me as the ‘Big Freedia of Johannesburg’—grabbed me with his traditional rhythms and contemporary soul. Melorie van der Klashorse, a local at the Festival, spoke to South Africa and the Joy of Jazz Festival, “We have a specific flavor and we also have a passion and joy which—especially in jazz—comes through a lot. You get musicians which are so passionate, they inspire other people to want to play music as well,” adding, “[The Joy of Jazz] brings an international standard of jazz that we need to get exposed to.”
The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival began each night at 7pm and went until 1:30am or so—almost the inverse of our New Orleans Jazz Fest. The Festival has brought international artists to Johannesburg for 15 years.