The annual Cape Town Jazz Festival, sleekly dubbed Africa’s Grandest gathering was on this past weekend with 40 acts taking to the stage for two extra-ordinary days. This year’s festival was made even more special by the appearance of Wayne Shorter who co-founder of the festival former photojournalist Rashid Lombard calls a genius. The saxophonist is credited for changing the rules of jazz and inspiring millions around the world.
Voice reporter Kabelo Dipholo was among the over 40 000 jazz lovers that gathered at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and had a chance to interview some of the legends and upcoming jazz artists.
KD: Thanks Dave for finding time to do this interview
KOZ: My pleasure; lets’ talk.
KD: Please briefly introduce yourself
KOZ: I’m a saxophone player born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My parents originated from Ukraine and Russia.
KD: When did you start playing music?
KOZ: I began at the age of seven. I started with the piano and then the drums. I began playing the sax at the age of 14. (He learnt to play the saxophone so he could be a member of his brother’s band).
KD: You have been in the music industry for over 35 years and you have only visited two Africa countries, South Africa and Zambia. Why is it so?
KOZ: I have been to just two African countries but I can tell you that the key to my success is leaving LA. I believe in traveling, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. My next stop from Cape Town will be Lagos, Nigeria where I intend to collaborate with a young guitarist there.
KD: Talking about collaborations, there have been successful ones between Peter Gabriel and Papa Wemba, Paul Simon and Ladies Black Mambazo. Which African artists would you like to collaborate with?
KOZ: I have collaborated with so many artists in my life; that is just me. I would be honored to work with Yasor Ndour or Black Mambazo.
KD: In the 35 years you have been in showbiz you have never had bad publicity. What keeps you grounded?
KOZ: (laughs) Well maybe you need to create a scandal for me. I guess I was lucky because I was raised by a very strict father and an uncle. I also do not indulge too much; I would rather stay home with my nieces.
In the 70s Hubert Laws dominated the polls as the number one flautist. The Texas born musician performed and recorded with a host of stars, including Quincy Jones, George Benson and McCoy Tyner. In January this year he received a Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor given to jazz musicians in the US.
KD: You have been in music for so long, what would you say has changed since you started recording?
LAWS: Well a lot has changed. First today artists can just go behind a desk and make music without the help of anybody. Music has evolved over the years.
KD: Are you suggesting that technology is killing music?
LAWS: Not really. There is the upside and downside of technology. There is no doubt that technology has enhanced the quality of music, but sadly it eliminates the connection that musicians usually have when they record. These days we can record separately.
KD: You went AWOL for some time and recently came back. Where were you Mr. Laws?
LAWS: I decided to take time off to be with my family. I wanted to take my kids to a park and give them affection.
KD: How long are you going to be doing this?
LAWS: I have a lot of enthusiasm about music, it makes me happy. Music is so stimulating and if you allow me I will need to rest so I could be stimulated later……I hate to cut this short but I’m so tired, I’m an old man I need to rest.
Larry Willis met Hugh Masekela in 1961 at a Manhattan music school. The two collaborated for the latter’s odd album called ‘Almost like being in jazz’. It consisted of jazz standards taken from the American songbook. Larry was in Africa since his last visit 11 years ago.
KD: How would you describe your relationship with Hugh Masekela?
WILLIS: We are like brothers. It is just that sometimes we go in different directions but we always manage to find each other again. Hugh is a visionary with a million dreams and I have learnt a lot from working with him.
KD: Are you still actively involved in music?
WILLIS: Am I? I have just come from a tour in Italy and after this festival I’m going to the studio with Hugh, so anything can come up from there.
KD: That sounds interesting. There is a perception that music is dying what is your take on that?
WILLIS: Hugh and Larry’s music will survive for ever. Good music always survives; if it dies it is not good enough.
KD: How has growing up in the US influenced your music?
WILLIS: Any society that has to begin and grow can only do that through its culture. I come from a black American society that had to find itself and music was the ideal thing. It has been part of our culture for years.
KD: Who inspired you to pursue music as a career?
WILLIS: My father was a great inspiration. Though he was a laborer he instilled in me some values in life that influenced how I think about music.
They are more than a band. At first glance they look more like clowns than musicians. But this is the only group that I found more organized and dedicated to their career. They use music, dance, art photography and fashion to condemn the corruption and antics of African despots. South Africans, Xander Ferreira and Nick Mathews cannot be ignored.
KD: Who are you guys?
GAZELLE: We are whatever you want us to be. We come from a place where one can make something out of nothing.
KD: Yeah..How is that?
GAZELLE: If you look at the pantsula guys who always manage to take something from nothing you will know what I’m talking about. We are beyond music, we have a bigger message.
KD: Why the name Gazelle?
GAZELLE: It is a humble animal and staple food for the predator. We believe that it is in humility that one finds strength. We also love the name because in French la-gazelle means beautiful lady.
KD: You have played in Europe, how was the reception?
GAZELLE: We have never had a bad reception. We have played in some of the strangest countries like Ukraine, Norway but people there just loved us. Nobody can ignore satire.
He played a soprano saxophone for Jimmy Dludlu during his performance at Botswanacraft and the young Mozambican was making his maiden appearance at the show as a group leader. He has a new CD Heals Africa and continues to work with Dludlu.
KD: Where else have you played besides Cape Town jazz?
ORLANDO: I have been to Portugal twice and spent six months in the Middle East.
KD: What can you say about the Jimmy Dludlu show in Botswana?
ORLANDO: It was a great show. That was my first time in the country and I really enjoyed and would like to come back. I have made friends there.
KD: Genres like jazz and reggae used to be political, but that seem to have changed, why?
ORLANDO: It is a bit difficult to be political these days because at the end of the day we need to pay the bills. In the 80s musicians had issues they had to deal with a lot of issues. Through them we have freedom today and there is no need to sing sad songs.