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Jazz community’s irrepressible energy fires up the National Jazz Festival Makhanda

By Creative Feel

Now in its 36th year, the National Jazz Festival Makhanda forms part of the annual National Arts Festival, with a programme that has become a barometer of South African jazz. It’s also a gathering place for artists, many of whom take a break from their international travels to meet, jam and create new ideas. For fans it’s an annual pilgrimage, and for new audiences it is an introduction to a musical genre that has defined generations and inspired millions across the globe.

Young performers at the National Youth Jazz Festival
Young performers at the National Youth Jazz Festival

The Jazz Festival runs alongside a key engine room for jazz succession, mentorship and network in South Africa; the National Youth Jazz Festival. The programme gathers over 250 young musicians from schools, universities and informal institutions from around the country, to join the Festival, learn from each other and be inspired by the professional jazz heroes on stage. Many musicians on the programme at this year’s Festival took part in the National Youth Jazz Festival when they were students, and now return to the main stage. 

Nomadic Orchestra National Jazz Festival Makhanda
Nomadic Orchestra

“Despite the challenges our country and the jazz industry face, we are very pleased and proud to bring you a selection of excellent South African jazz, drawn from around the country. It is music produced largely by younger artists, as befits a festival that celebrates and encourages youth development, and the hope it brings for the future. We’ve even managed to weave excellent musicians from Switzerland, Germany, Australia and Spain into this jazz celebration, all in collaboration with young South Africans.”

Festival Director, Alan Webster

A high point is undoubtedly the Kesivan Naidoo Big Band, led by the iconic drummer, whose jazz career began in Makhanda in 1995 with his selection to the National Schools Jazz Band. “This is the festival that made me,” says Naidoo, and in tribute to the Festival, he has organised the funding of and logistics for an impressive ensemble of South African and Swiss musicians that will play his music at a Festival reflecting both our jazz past and its future.

Kesivan Naidoo National Jazz Festival Makhanda
Kesivan Naidoo

The National Jazz Festival continues to be concentrated at The Diocesan School for Girls venue in Makhanda during the Festival. Tickets sell for between R50 and R150 each. 

View the full Jazz Festival programme here.

In case you missed it

Here are our top picks from the main programme: What to see on this year’s Curated Programme.

What to see on this year’s Fringe programme.

Everything you need to know before you go.

And the line-up, highlights and general info about NAF 2023: The countdown to the 2023 National Arts Festival begins.

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