KZN’s Jazz Delusion


Rotterdam version of the North Sea Jazz Festival

Recently there has been quite a brouhaha in the SA press about the R28million spent by the KZN Provincial Govt on obtaining the licence for the North Sea Jazz Festival to be held in KZN (Durban?). The NSJF licence was not obtained nor was the festival actually held. Much of the scandal has been about the fact that this rather expensive festival did not materialise. Quite frankly, I believe everyone is missing the point. For me there are way more pertinent questions that need answering.

Question one: How does an arbitrary consortium get access to that kind of money in the first place? There are countless underfunded existing festivals in the region already, none of whom have access to this kind of funding? Is this a case of ‘who you know’ again. Interesting that the name of Mike Mabuyakulu, whose reputation is already tainted by the ‘amigos’ scandal, is embroiled once more.

Question 2: Why is KZN interested in the NSJF in the first place? Dont tell me about the economic benefits  because as a festival organiser of some success myself,  I understand the potential of economic and marketing benefits of such festivals. However, Cape Town and Johannesburg have already toyed with this particular festival and subsequently rejected it as too expensive and not cost effective. Has anyone investigated why these SA cities no longer work with the NSJF? The Cape Town jazz festival was initially started as the North Sea Jazz Festival. After a few years CT decided to go it alone and have now become the Jazz festival in SA. The point is music festivals irrespective of the genre have great ecoomic and social benefit when they are able to reach critical mass.

Question 3: Why do our leaders insist on constantly playing in an arena that is clearly led by Cape Town and Johannesburg anyway? It is clear that Cape Town is the No 1 Jazz city in our country, closely followed by Jo’burg and then the Joy of Jazz at the NAFEST in Grahamstown.  Anything that Durban/KZN does in the jazz arena will clearly only be following the leaders.

Question 4: Why does KZN still have this delusion that the region are lovers of Jazz? Have they not noticed how the Zulu Jazz Lounge was unable to sustain itself or how P4 the Jazz station had to change its genre and style to become Gagazi FM? The number one musical genre is Gospel. Surely, if the region wants to be a leader and have ownership in a national and international music sector they should be looking at the empty spaces like Gospel, Blues, Rock & Traditional music and put their financial muscle behind those ideas rather than copying the Wesern Cape and Gauteng success stories. These genres are by far the most popular genres in the region and not Jazz. Jazz has a following but it is miniscule in comparison.

7 responses to “KZN’s Jazz Delusion

  1. So the Ugu festival is not enough of a model that the region is crazy about jazz festivals? What happened to the jazz clubs in Cape Town? Are they all thriving?

  2. I personally don’t think its too much pay 28million for such a well estabish brand to come stage produce and book artist, accomodate,and travelling cost. But aslong its a short contract thats what they did in Cape Town and since North Sea left the festival was never the same but because they built the brand already it will be there for sometime.
    I must start buy saying i was one of the Durban born Musician, Studied Jazz at Natal Tech,played Spent alot of time Like Bheki Mseleku, Sandile Shange ,Madala kunene ,Busi Mhlongo ,Sdumo ngidi,philani Ngidi, What made Durban great was the culture of live musice

    So as for my information on this matter will differ on the last part because even before Zulu Jazz lounge they were venues like BAt centre ,Revert , rainbow (pinetown)which still exist, One thing that we are forgetting that KZN Gave birth to the best SA jazz musicians For the 30 years, Feya Faku, Sipho Gumede, Andile Yenana , Bheki Mseleku just to mansion a few. This alone shows that people of KZN Appreciate Jazz.

    Going back to the issue of Zulu Jazz Lounge i must say that place was running perfectly and it was packed every night until they had issues within the management. before you plan on bringing any big festival its important to have a culture of live music first, UKZN Is the best Jazz Music school in SA. places like Bat Centre need new Blood and new ideas. in the past 7 years ive been travelling all over the world Jazz is a culture its not about just one event.Jorburg is the biggest and fastes growing Jazz festival in the wolrd with Nine Stages. all stages have a concept and well researched.The producer Mr Tladi when i had chance to talk to him he told me He travels all over the world to see who is doing what to plan for each year, that alone it shows he is more about the quality not quantity.Ugu is not a jazz Festival its more just a music festival which has no Culture, not well researched.
    In a festival they are many things we must cover, GOOD SOUND, GOOD LIGHT ,STAGES< GREAT STAGE MANAGER< BEST SOUND ENGEENERS,PERFORMING ARTIST,PARKING<SECURITY ECT so all this things must be of the highest level.

    On my side the goverment must review places like Bat Centre because those are places that are suppose to encore. UKZN is still producing great musicians. This South African Industry is run but KZN Graudates and i mean all genres including JAZZ.. The reason gospel,house,maskandi its big in Kzn because of the culture it comes with. ..Durban Needs a proper Jazz Festival. Its Great City

    • I fully agree that KZN is the nursery for many of SA’s greatest musical exports including jazz. My question is around the huge investment in a genre whose audience does not have the critical mass to support it..certainly not in the region, when the same is not done for genres like gospel etc that already have real traction at a community based level. CT &Jozi have already cornered the jazz market. Why shouldn’t we corner the empty space and make it our own internationally?

  3. Jazz is everywhere in South Africa. Just different expressions. Go to stokvels in Limpopo and North West, go to New Brighton and the other townships of the Eastern Cape and seek out the real thing. Durban has its own vibe and has made an outstanding contribution historically through the likes of Allan Kwela and Bheki Mseleku, to this day UKZN has the most influential jazz department in the country (although Wits, Rhodes et al doing amazing new things too, UKZN was the first to open a jazz school before it became de riguer. Berklee-by-the-Atlantic… let’s not even go there). So I do find this to be a very chauvinistic posting. It would be great for Durban to get a premier jazz festival. We should have them all over the country. South Africa and Cuba are the most significant jazz nations outside of the USA and we undervalue this fact.

    • There is no denying KZN’s Jazz influence. That is not the point. The issue is the size of the jazz audience as compared to several other genre’s in the region. The UKZN jazz centre which I visit fairly well is populated by the same 400 people every week. There is no denying that they produce amazing musos all of whom deserve a platform, so I say let’s apply R750 000 – R1million a year to creating employment opportunities all year round instead of applying R28 million into getting a festival – premier or not – that will create employment over a very small period of time and which did not happen. To gain some perspective, there are festivals like Splashy Fen, Awesome Africa and the the Durban International Blues Festival which operate successfully on R1 million and less. This means 28 festivals for the same amount spent chasing the North Sea Jazz Festival.

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