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Review: Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Diverse but often disconnected

Bänz Oester at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
The crowd at the “Kippies” stage, Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2015
Carlo Mombelli at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Dee Dee Bridgewater sings with Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2015
Gavin Minter at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Hugh Masekela at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Kyle Shepherd at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
McCoy Mrubata at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Thundercat at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Yvonne Chaka Chaka at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Zoë Modiga at the 2015 Cape Town International Jazz Festival

For a city so full of ghosts, Cape Town, South Africa, surprisingly never feels haunted. This is, after all, a place where the doors to the symbol of its darkest history, Robben Island prison, are flung open to the world by former prisoners and guards alike. And a year and a half after his death the island’s most famous former prisoner, modern founding father Nelson Mandela, is ever present. In America, “Washington slept here” signs abound; in Cape Town, Mandela is here, everywhere, constantly present in artwork, tributes, t-shirts and on the lips of its citizens.

Music played a vital role in the struggle against apartheid, with artists giving voice to the oppressed at home and in exile, so it’s all but inevitable that the icons of that period are still afforded superstar status in their native country. That was evident throughout the 16th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival, where it was the hometown heroes who drew the largest audiences, not the visitors from around the world. Those artists who’ve since departed as well as those who remain were honored formally and informally throughout the weekend, many of their greatest songs having long since transformed from protests to celebrations. “We love our own!” cried singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who opened the fest’s main stage on Friday evening, March 27, after a rendition of her hit “Mr. Friday Night.”

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Originally Published