Cape Town has the upcoming International Jazz Festival; Johannesburg has the annual Joy of Jazz. Not to be outdone, South Africa’s other major urban centre, the city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal – though better known for hosting awards ceremony such as the MAMAs in recent years – is putting its name on the international jazz festival map with a new event, the International Jazz Extravaganza (IJE).
On Saturday 12 March for one night only at the Durban International Convention Centre, the IJE will see American jazz icons Lee Ritenour and Spyro Gyra indulge local music lovers.
Also known as ‘Captain Fingers’, the internationally renowned guitarist Lee Ritenour, a founding member of the group Fourplay, will thrill fans for two hours by revisiting his best songs from of his 40 year career, including cuts from his new album, A Twist of Rit.
Spyro Gyra have been around for a similar amount of time, during which they have sold over ten million albums and played over 5000 shows on five continents. Bandleader Jay Beckenstein said of their upcoming appearance in Durban: “South African music has been an inspiration to us for many years so it’s a great pleasure for us to be able to play our music on South African soil. It’s always a thrill to play somewhere that we’ve never played before so we’re looking forward to our Durban debut!”
Though no local acts have been officially announced on the event’s website, the IJE’s communications head Grace Kadzere told Music In Africa that two local talents will be opening the show: “The opening will be by a 10-year-old self–taught guitarist, Luthando Jackson. This young boy has always looked up to Lee Ritenour’s music for inspiration. When he heard that he was coming to Durban, he asked for an opportunity to meet him. The event organisers decided to give him more than that by ensuring that beyond meeting the jazz legend, he would also get to perform on the same stage and do a piece of his own. While he might be young, he has already in the past performed with established musical groups such as the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, James Grace and the Soul Brothers.
“This will be followed by compositions from the local jazz maestro, Nduduzo Makhathini, a gentleman who also hails from a musical family. His mother is a pianist and his father, a guitarist. A multi–Metro Award nominee, Nduduzo is talent to be reckoned with and has traveled the world with his music.”
Together these four acts are expected to entertain local jazz lovers for up to six hours.
Countering the popular perception that jazz is an exclusive genre for the old and/or wealthy, Kadzere said: “Jazz isn’t exclusive. It is just different music and is almost an acquired taste, like unsweetened coffee. It’s not for everyone but for those that embrace the music for what it is.”
Kadzere was positive about the current state of jazz in South Africa. “At a glance, based on the increase in the numbers of people attending local jazz festivals, it would be safe to say that jazz is growing. Jazz and classical music are the only genres of music that one can actually learn formally, the number of students enrolling for these courses at universities hasn’t gone down, which to me is a sign of growth. “
In terms of the benefits that the IJE will offer for the City of Durban, the host city and co-sponsor of the event, Kadzere explained: “Music brings about social cohesion. Music by international acts in Durban bring more tourists to the city and allow us to contribute towards the country’s economic growth. In the past, we have seen great economic spin-offs from hosting major events in Durban so we will continue to show support to our local music industry.”