Standard Bank Joy of Jazz reinforces its status as South Africa’s foremost jazz festival, and one of the best on the African continent, thanks to a stellar line-up of musicians from around the globe.
Azerbaijan-born, globe-trotting composer and pianist Amina Figarova introduces ten colorful, compelling new compositions performed by her touring sextet plus guests on Blue Whisper, her 13th album since her 1994 debut Attraction.
Figarova's deeply personal, highly evocative responses to social turmoil, distinctive personalities she's encountered and universal transitions of life inform the music on Blue Whisper. Moods range from the haunting beauty of the titular track "Blue Whisper," as well as "Moonrise" and "Hewa" (featuring lyrics in Swahili by Sarah Elizabeth Charles) to the straight-ahead momentum of "Moving Forward," "The Hustler" and "The Traveler," to the sophisticated playfulness of "Pictures," "Marians" and "Juno." In "Hear My Voice," over a martial beat and sorrowful, resolute horn choir, an eight-year-old girl earnestly urges an end to violence world-wide and, with laughter, a request to "Let kids be kids."
Somehow in our hunger for perfection it’s become difficult for music to just be. And so when Bilal began making A Love Surreal (his latest-and fourth cd over all) the acclaimed Grammy nominated vocalist/songwriter /producer knew where he needed to go. “I’ve always wanted to make music that is so basic and simple that it can be recreated every time. Something simple like a jazz standard. On this album I let go of a lot of shit for the first time and that opened my eyes up to a lot of more stuff. It was a real complete thought.”
Bokani Dyer was born on the 21st of January, 1986 in Gaborone, Botswana. An auspicious setting in retrospect, where many exiled musicians and artists from South Africa, including Bokani’s father, musician Steve Dyer, were living in exile.
Currently based in Cape Town, Bokani Dyer is a rising star in the South African Jazz scene gaining momentum in a variety of different projects he is involved in. As Pianist, Composer and Producer, Dyer has made strides in his relatively short-lived career. He holds an Honors Degree from the University of Cape Town(with distinction) specializing in Performance and Composition. He has released 2 solo albums under his name to some critical acclaim : Mirrors (2010) and Emancipate the Story (2011) and an album currently in production due for release in 2015
Brian Culbertson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer known for his distinct brand of genre-crossing contemporary jazz, R&B and funk. Mining the urban sounds of musically-rich Chicago, he began his musical studies on piano at age eight and quickly picked up several other instruments by the time he was twelve, including drums, trombone, bass and euphonium. Inspired by the iconic R&B-jazz-pop artists of the 1970s like Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, Chicago, David Sanborn and others, Culbertson started composing original music for his seventh grade piano recital and hasn’t stopped since, amassing 30 Billboard No. 1 singles (and counting!) and a deep catalogue of 18 albums, most of which have topped the Billboard contemporary jazz charts.
It takes a lot of guts to expose your true self to others, and acclaimed Buika (pronounced BWEE-ka), does that every night she goes on stage. As plain as the tattoos on her skin, Buika bears her soul to her fans across the world, whom she affectionately calls ” My tribe”. The year started for Buika amazingly well, she began her journey of storytelling across America, Latin America and Europe, Africa will follow by the beginning of the fall in support of her brand new sound, band and repertoires while working on her tenth release that will see the light by mid Spring/early Summer 2018.
Cassandra Wilson is an American jazz musician, vocalist, and songwriter from Jackson, Mississippi. Described by critic Gary Giddins as "a singer blessed with an unmistakable timbre and attack who has expanded the playing field" by incorporating country, blues and folk music into her work. Wilson’s earliest formal musical education consisted of classical lessons; she studied piano from the age of six to thirteen and played clarinet in the middle school concert and marching bands. When she tired of this training, she asked her father to teach her the guitar. Instead, he gave her a lesson in self-reliance, suggesting she study Mel Bay method books. Wilson explored the guitar on her own, developing what she has described as an “intuitive” approach. During this time she began writing her own songs, adopting a folk style. For college, Wilson attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University. She graduated with a degree in mass communications. Outside of the classroom, she spent her nights working with R&B, funk, and pop cover bands, also singing in local coffeehouses. The Black Arts Music Society, founded by John Reese and Alvin Fielder, provided her with her first opportunities to perform bebop.
With a distinguished recording career that spans three decades, including two Grammy awards (Timeless and Diane Schuur and The Count Basie Orchestra on GRP Records), as well as three additional GRAMMY® nominations, Schuur's music has explored almost every corner of the 20th Century musical landscape. Her musical collaborations include the aforementioned Count Basie Orchestra, Barry Manilow, B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Jose Feliciano, among countless others. These collaborations have resulted in numerous #1 Billboard Chart recordings, including Pure Schuur and Heart to Heart with B.B. King; Ms. Schuur has appeared on PBS and many other television specials...as well as a very special visit to the beloved TV show, Sesame Street. Diane has been invited to perform at The White House on multiple occasions, and was one of the select musical guests invited to perform for Stevie Wonder at the Kennedy Center Honors when he received his prestigious award. She continues to tour and perform extensively at major concert halls and venues around the world.
World Afrobeat Music composer and performer, versatile saxophonist and dynamic vocalist, Femi Koya is the new face of the African Renaissance, combining West African highlife and Jazz, South African Sofiatown with a nostalgic Afrobeat root sounds, his music is a rich blend of deep and sultry Afrobeat and contemporary groove.. He is urban and urbane. His life’s journey - a story of migration from the West to the South - resonates in his music, which creates a conscious dialogue between West African and South African sounds. This musical fusion demonstrates the path to a new and culturally integrated Africa in which a common heritage is reinforced to meet the needs of today's world. His quest is for African unity at a time when he believes Africa should claim its rightful and proud place in the world.
Born in Mofolo and raised in Pimville, Soweto, Gloria's career began in the church choir. A production at the Market Theatre in 1993 earned her a scholarship to study opera at the Pretoria Technikon. Gloria has shared the stage (both locally and internationally) with too many music greats to list here, but including the likes of: Sibongile Khumalo, Moses Molelekwa, Tananas, Concord Nkabinde, Sipho Mabuse, Vusi Mahlasela, Sipho Gumede, Oliver Mtukudzi, Victor Masondo and Hugh Masekela. She now has six albums to her credit under her own name as a solo artist.
Gugu Shezi, was born in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, KwaMashu raised e Nanda where she started singing at an early age at church, in school choirs and community groups. In 2000 Gugu moved to Johannesburg where she entered the first season of Idols which signalled the start of her music career.
Gugu worked as a backing vocalist for Mafikizolo, Hugh Masekela, Judith Sephuma, Thandiswa Mazwai and many others. Gugu has also appeared in the Market Theatre production of “Songs of Migration” alongside Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, Gloria Bosman and director James Ngcobo, as well as “Jazztown” amongst many other theatre productions.
Internationally Gugu has travelled the world touring with Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, the late Busi Mhlongo and Jabu Khanyile and others. In 2016 Gugu signed to Boom.Studio and has released “Umoya” a brilliant mixture of Afro-soul, Urban Zulu pop, which is definitely the best work of her career to date.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo are the pioneers of Isicathamiya, and are the oldest group in South Africa which is still making it big locally and internationally. Having won 5 Grammy awards and nominated more than 18 times makes them one of the best groups in the world. From the beginning of their journey they took South African music industry by storm, being the first group to sell a gold disc sales status.
In 2015 Wazimbo started a new journey and partnered with Banda Kakana, sharing the microphones with Yolanda Chicane in order to share stories of Marrabenta, a rhythm that emerged out of colonial segregation and opened the doors for a cultural dialog and soon was established as a rhythm of consensus for mozambican cultural identity.
With the new cd Marrabentar, Wazimbo and Banda Kakana come to close a great conversation around the old and new generation of Mozambican music, opening doors for the youth to be proud of this rhythm and to the world to discovery the new voices that the country produced after independence.
Marrabentar isn’t just a cd, it it’s a way to tell a story of a country identity, it’s a father continuing to educate the kids to preserve their roots and identity. It is also the kids showing that their learned and that Marrabenta will be preserved. It is at the end an invitation to break the strings and break out leaving behind the lazy ones.
Academic and musician Sello Galane graduated with a doctorate through the University of Pretoria. Galane, earned his master's a few years ago through the study of the kiba music of the Bapedi, toiled for four years for his doctorate. The main focus of his study was the malombo spiritual music that was brought to the attention of the world by Dr Phillip "Malombo" Tabane.Galane, known for his song Pula and the Free Kiba concept, intends putting his qualification to good use. "We have started the Free Kiba Music Development Foundation to do studies and research on all other African music forms.
Oliver Mtukudzi, also known as "Tuku" (short for Mtukudzi) is a singer-songwriter, actor, writer, film director and entrepreneur. With over 60 albums to his name, he is one of Zimbabwe's top musicians and lead of the band The Black Spirits. His sings a music genre known as Afro-Jazz. Mtukudzi's career spans decades, having started in 1975 when he did his debut single
The award-winning pianist, recipient of both the coveted 'UNISA National Piano Competition Award  and the ‘Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year’ Award  in the Jazz Category was selected for the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s [SABC 3] ‘21 ICONS South Africa Season III’ [November 2015] for “his ability to transcend cultural barriers by using music as an art form to communicate commonalities and differences across diverse nations. He has used his aptitude for music as a thread to embrace and harness creativity in society.” Shepherd regularly performs in concert as a Solo pianist, while also leading his Trio. Featuring Shepherd on piano, Shane Cooper on double bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums, this inspiring and inventive Trio, who have been together for the past six years, have captivated audiences across South Africa, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, China, Mozambique and Botswana.
Nairobi Horns Project
The Nairobi Horns Project (NHP) is a musicians collective bringing together musicians bonded by the love for new music and committed to building a sound around horns in African and contemporary music. Our sound is influenced by our love for Jazz, African rhythms, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Electronic music. Nairobi Horns started off as a commercial for-hire horn section whose members have worked on music TV shows, concerts, recordings and tours to as hired horn section, and has since expanded to include a five piece supporting band.
Nairobi Horns Project is currently in the middle of our first recording project, working on original musical works as well a music remake project called Modern Kenyan Classics; our own interpretation of contemporary Kenyan music. In addition, as socially conscious musicians, NHP is in the process of creating Sanaa4Change, a program that uses music to reach out, inspire and empower young people.
Standard Bank Young Artist Thandi Ntuli was born on the 10th September 1987 in one of South Africa's largest townships, Soshanguve (Pretoria). She comes from a lineage of rich musical heritage, being the niece of guitarist, pianist and lead vocalist of 70's pop fusion band Harari (The Beaters), Selby Ntuli.
At the tender age of 4, she started taking classical piano lessons under the tutelage of Ada Levkowitz. However, her keen interest for jazz was only kindled later in life, leading her to enroll and complete a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at The University of Cape Town.
Since the release of her debut jazz album, "The Offering" which she released independently, Thandi is fast making an imprint in the local jazz scene with her unique voice. "The Offering" has received critical acclaim as well as numerous awards and recognition since its release in 2014, namely a MetroFM award nomination for "Best Urban Jazz" in 2015.
David Sanborn has released 24 albums, won six Grammy Awards, and has had eight Gold albums and one Platinum. Having inspired countless other musicians, Dave has worked in many genres which typically blend instrumental pop, R&B and traditional jazz. He released his first solo album Taking Off in 1975, but has been playing the saxophone since before he was in high school when he was inspired by the great Chicago blues artists near his hometown of St. Louis.
The importance of Letta Mbulu's music to young South Africans over the years cannot be overemphasized. Since the runaway success of I Need Your Love and Kukuchi in the Seventies (both Christmas releases), there was always a palpable buzz in the townships around the festive season, every partygoer wondering when the "next Letta" would be released. Caiphus and Letta obliged time and time again, racking up an impressive repertoire of iconic township favourites which included There's Music in the Air and the party evergreen, Ndiphendule.
Mbuso Khoza is an award winning vocalist and songwriter with a rich, authentic sound. A rare musical talent that rose from the rolling hills of Eshowe in Kwa-Zulu Natal and made sure to take the World Music circuit by storm.
Winner of Best jazz album in 2013, Mbuso has performed extensively in countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso, Portugal, Switzerland, France and The Netherlands to mention a few.
McCoy has collaborated with a dazzling array of South African jazz players, and with overseas artists such as Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. He has been involved in drama, creating scores for South African productions about journalist Bloke Modisane and saxophone legend Kippie Moeketsi . McCoy also worked In three
Norwegian productions ( with Nordic Black Theatre ) : two In 1994/5 In SA and In Oslo on two Bob Marley Musicals and in 2001 starring in play based on the life of John Coltrane “Beyond The Blues” , playing a leading role. He has also created what he calls the Young Friends: a collaboration with the next generation of South African jazzmen.
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