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AWESOME AFRICA MUSIC FESTIVAL #1 (article first published : 2006-09-5)

Central Durban is set to rumba, samba and salsa for the eight annual Awesome Africa Music Festival from September 30 to October 1.

Durban will play host to a Street Party for the first time in and around the City Hall precinct which serves to reinforce the eThekwini Municipality’s drive to develop a Cultural Precinct within Durban’s Inner City district in readiness for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. For those who want to sip on Havana cocktails, smoke Cuban cigars, dance the salsa with legends and feel the spirit of Brazil, then head down to Awesome Africa. The festival again forms the grand finale and anchor for the Celebrate Durban season. The venues will be the City Hall and the Zulu Lounge (previous Cellar) at the Playhouse.

Included in this unique festival is a Cuban invasion of Havana-based legends; a Jazz explosion of twelve top groups comprising some of the biggest names in South African jazz including Jimmy Dludlu; an international “world music” focus on Cuba, Brazil, Mozambique and Namibia; Indie rock from Australia; an Indian legend celebrating the centenary of the passive resistance movement of Satyagraha; and all mixed together with some of the very best and diverse music that Durban has to offer.

PART 1 (See separate stories for other attractions) JAZZ EXPLOSION: Awesome Africa has always proudly championed diverse music styles and strongly represented the spirit of jazz. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of SA Port Operations, this year the Festival will present the largest jazz explosion that Durban has ever seen. It has teamed up with the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at UKZN, the South African Jazz Education Conference and SAMRO to feature the finest award-winning South African jazz artists as well as musicians from Turkey, Canada, Sweden and the United States who are here to give specialist training to students attending the conference.

Headlining the jazz content in the City Hall are the SA Port/UKZN Rolling Re-Union Band which brings together around 20 well known alumni of the University of KwaZulu-Natal music department to celebrate 20 years of history in jazz studies. Included in this exceptional gathering are Susan Barry, Darius Brubeck, Sazi Dlamini, Marc Duby, Lex Futshane, Kevin Gibson, Donovan Jacob, Paul Kock, Prince Kupi, Debbie and George Mari, Mfana Mlambo, Mageshen Naidoo, Concord Nkabinde, Stembiso Ntuli, Melvin Peters, Nishlyn Ramanna, Natalie Rungan, Bongani Sokhela and Brian Thusi.

The Andile Yenana Quintet features the pianist’s traditional hard bop and distinctive arrangements together with Jimmy Mngwandi (upright bass), Clement Benny (drums), Sydney Mnisi (saxophone) & Sydney Mavundla (trumpet). The Feya Faku Five with Andre Petersen (piano), Buddy Wells (sax), Herbie Tsoaeli (bass) and Kesaven Naidoo (drums) is a truly national South African band with award winning members from five provinces. The nationally popular and highly regarded UCT Big Band directed by Mike Campbell will include special guest Darius Brubeck premiering his piece dedicated to Lulu Gontsana.

Representing the progressive links between jazz and education are The Music Academy of Gauteng Youth Jazz Ensemble, which is directed by founder and ace trumpeter Johnny Mekoa who led the Jazzanians in the 80’s and now tours with Jonas Gwangwa. The Academy has developed a respected reputation for developing many of today’s young jazz stars. Los Habaneros led by composer Gareth Walwyn of Rhodes University is a Latin music project influenced by both the UCT Latin Tentet and Andrew Tracey's Steelband. Gone Fusion from Tswana University of Technology is directed by Marc Duby and features lots of original music in a wide variety of SA jazz styles in its repertoire.

International Time has an all star collaborative line-up of Janusz Szprot (piano, Turkey); Sundar Viswanathan (saxophone, Canada); Tom Smith (trombone, USA) and Martin Blomberg (drums, Sweden). The Cape Town based KGB Jazz Band is led by trumpeter Vaughn Fransch who, along with guitarist Darryl Andrews, is the mainstay of the group. Their repertoire ranges from standard bebop, hardbop material to funk and Latin music and band members are drawn from young professionals on the Western Cape jazz scene. Zim Ngqawana’s Zimology Institute features Zim Ngqawana (sax), Ayande Sikade (drums), Leon Sharnick (tenor sax), Shaun Johannes (bass) and Thembelani Nqwata (voice, trombone, tuba) and draws on influences from folk and rural traditions to Indian and western classical music, world music and the avant-garde. Mike Rossi and Melvin Peters have teamed up in a duo format especially for the Festival.

Jimmy Dludlu started teaching himself to play by imitating the jazz and African music he heard on the radio. His first performances were at township weddings and functions and his career took off in earnest in the mid-1980's, when he worked with various southern African bands from Swaziland and Botswana, as well as Anansi, featuring the Ghanaian saxophonist George Lee. A highlight of this period was his performance at the Botswana Independence celebrations in 1986, alongside a range of African stars including Thomas Mapfumo. Jimmy’s ever evolving and popular style includes wide-ranging influences, combining both traditional and modern elements of jazz drawn from among others Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Metheny, to South African legends Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela, Themba Mokwena, and Allen Kwela. He is particularly drawn to the sounds of west and central Africa, as well as Latin America, but says jazz remains his first love.




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