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Gauteng Big Band Jazz Festival 2016

Celebrating six years of the Gauteng Big Band Jazz Festival

Big Band Jazz Festival provides unique opportunities for young musicians to play together, broaden their repertoire and their brains. It also assists in socialising whilst expanding the social and cultural horizons as they delve into the music performed together. Jazz opens up players, audiences and parents, to the histories of more than just Glen Miller or Tommy Dorsey. But also to Blues, the style that fathered Jazz and influenced everybody from Scott Joplin to Keith Jarrett; Elvis, to Metallica.

South Africa has a proud Jazz history which follows the legacy of musicians from District Six in Cape Town and Sophia Town in Johannesburg. The Jazz Epistles was one of the first major bebop groups in the 1950s and included Hugh Masekela, Kippie Moeketsi and Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand). The group brought the sounds of American bebop to Cape Town, contributing their own special flavour to the mix. Followed by Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes, and together they groups formed the backbone of South African bebop.

King Kong was a musical written by South African jazz musicians with social commentary that subtly criticised apartheid and its impact on the lives of black South Africans. While the government attempted to prevent its launch, the musical still opened at WITS University. It continued to tour South Africa and was later performed in London, taking the protest message to the rest of the world.

During the 1990s, jazz became the voice of the New South Africa, and was associated with the new identity of a tolerant and open society. This was a coming together of different peoples to create in unity. In many ways South African Jazz still does this.

Gauteng Big Band Jazz Festival 2016
Johannesburg Youth Jazz Ensemble. Image courtesy of the Big Band Festival.

Today, South Africa’s contribution to big band jazz includes the names of Victor Ntoni and The African Jazz Pioneers. The PhatBrass, The Jonny Cooper Orchestra, Marcus Wyatt, The Orbit Big Band, UCT Big Band, and the Standard Bank National Youth Festival Big Band as well.

The SAMRO Foundation encourages youth music development and education through a number of initiatives. Most noteworthy, the support towards the Gauteng Big Band Jazz Festival and the Cape Town Big Band Jazz Festival. These are important platforms that promote musical excellence and appreciation amongst scholars. The aim is to encourage students, teachers and parents to explore history through music. As well as to visit the SAMRO Music Archive, which holds musical treasure trove that we wish to open to the broader public.

The following big bands will be participating:

  • Pridwin P’zazz Jazz Band, who earlier this year performed in the Cape Town Big Band Jazz Festival,
  • Johannesburg Youth Jazz Ensemble,
  • King David Jazz Band,
  • Pretoria Boys’ High Big Band,
  • Cornwall Hill College, as well as
  • Alumni|city.

For more information on the Big Band Jazz festival, visit their website.

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