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2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Jazz and plenty of pop at this sold-out South African fest

Zamajobe at the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Hugh Masekela at the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Adam Glasser at a press event during the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival

The 13th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival was many things: a musically mixed bag, a challenging social setting, and a cause for both celebration and chagrin. The March 30-31 event at the International Convention Centre in this tourist-friendly and stylish metropolis drew a sold-out crowd of 34,000. It featured more than 40 acts spanning the easy reggae of Third World, the soaring Afro-pop of Zamajobe, smooth jazz icon Dave Koz along with the versatile singer Patti Austin, Afro-folk smash Zahara and the knotty, roiling jazz of South Africa’s Andre Petersen. Late night was the domain of hip-hop, from Pharoahe Monch to HHP to ILL-Literate-Skill. Call this gathering eclectic rather than strictly African, or strictly jazz, though the bookings did boast a good amount of certified jazz stars, including Donald Harrison, Ron Carter and Lenny White; Mike Stern and Dave Weckl; and David Sánchez and Lionel Loueke.

This boisterous and occasionally frustrating “lifestyle festival” saved some of its biggest acts for the end: national hero Hugh Masekela leading a full-bodied tribute to Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba, followed in the wee hours of April 1 by Lauryn Hill. (Hill, who’s been largely off the circuit for the past 10 years, was a last-minute substitution for singer Jill Scott.) The Masekela and Hill shows raised the 2,500-capacity Kippies venue to the claustrophobic level.

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