Jazz at Dakawa

Seen on July 9, 2016 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown

What better idea to immerse myself in the Legends of the Eastern Capejazz night at Dakawa on the last night of the festival? When I arrive the MC of thenight is just finishing his short speech and Vuyo Tsholo and the Ever Connection take the stage. Vuyo is an upcomig jazz singer who scats and sings and gets the vibe right. The group is as eclectic as jazz can get with the underestimated and legendary Kruger on guitar. That man knows how to play the blues.

The lady that sit on the chair next to me and half on mine asks me “Where are these boys from?” East London I heard. “Oh I know them I always see them on Sunday at 3 o’clock.” When Vuyo covers a Nigerian song “I like the way you shake your body,” we get a lot of hayibo’s from the crowd and some grannies start shaking their bumps. The vibe is contagious. Township love of jazz is evident.

Hayibo!!!, shouts my neigbour.

Next up is singer songwriter Nombasa who brings some AfroSoul in isiXhosa accompanied by violin, drum, bass and keyboards. Heart rendering and soulful she explores fatherlessness and how love always finds a way in three chords songs that are radio friendly but sensitive.

You should come to East London. Every Sunday at 3 o’clock, my neigbour adds.

As the next band takes the stage and sets the mood Lilitha shows up as a SA jazz diva bringing Bollywood to Africa with haunting backing vocals. Sending love to all her haters Lilitha’s voice is powerful and the band adds even more power. Marikana has a significant guitar solo. Next song is an appeal for Ubunto to be practiced. We continue with some reggae. Lilitha shows the presence of a grand dame de jazz. There is dancing and a variety of styles ending with a tribute to Myriam Makeba.

Time has run short for encores. But the lady next to be begs “Oh Baby”. But to impress the MEC of Sports and Culture who has just arrived the band adds another song.The vibe is gone, it feels forced and not right.

We are well warmed up (and strechted as well) when the Legends of the Eastern Cape bring their instruments on stage for a quick soundcheck. But it was well worth waiting for, the legends being Mlungisi Gegana (bass), Feya Faku (trumpet), Andile Yenana (piano), Ayanda Sikade (drums), Lulama Gaulana (guitar) and Siya Makhuzeni (voice).Terrific solo’s off all band members lead by Feya Faku and Standard Bank Young Artist Winner Siya Makuzeni. Her  scatting and isiXhosa gutturals add a unique tembre and voice to the electricifying jazz. Although great in their own right as musicians, the set is messy and feels unprepared with lots of time discussing which song to play next, as even the legends are driving on automatic pilot. But when they fly, the music is sparkling, warm and impressive. Did we tell you about the Gaulana’s guitar solo played in his neck?

“I am sorry, but I love jazz,” my neighbour excuses. “Hayibo!!!”

Photography: CuePix/Aaliyah Tshabalala – National Arts Festival 2016