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12th Annual Cape Town Jazz Festival

Christopher Loudon reviews annual festival in South Africa

Hugh Masekela

Rashid Lombard is a lot like the jazz festival he created: compact, clever and bursting with energy. In his previous life as a globetrotting photojournalist, Lombard covered most of the world’s great music events and, inspired by what he was witnessing through his lenses, decided it was time to put Cape Town on the international jazz map. He began laying the foundation for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in the late 1990s, as South Africa was emerging from the cultural boycott that had so seriously curtailed both its import and export of musical talent. The inaugural festival was mounted in early 2000 and quickly gained recognition for both the caliber of its programming and its dedication to ensuring that a minimum of fifty percent of the two-day schedule is devoted to African artists. Now, twelve years on, Cape Town is not only recognized as the finest musical convergence on the African continent but has also earned its place among the most respected festivals on the annual jazz calendar.

JazzTimes caught up with Lombard one day before the 2001 festival got underway on March 25. Asked how the festival has evolved over the past dozen years, he suggests that, “it has gone beyond a jazz festival and become a lifestyle festival. The people have taken ownership of it, and it is now governed by the peoples’ choice.” Hence the need to cater to various musical tastes and extend the programming to embrace more R&B and blues artists, this year including top-billed Earth, Wind and Fire and the long-anticipated reunion of the 1960s South African rock-soul cover band The Flames. “Different genres get us a wider audience coming to the festival,” says Lombard, “and it also helps us cater to younger listeners,” who are vital to the festival’s long-term success.

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