I lived in Cape Town for ten years exploring the authentic style of the city, goema music through journalism and event promotion. Although so naturally beautiful, Cape Towm has a cultural beauty to match.
Cape Town Jazz City :
Cape Town, Mother City, with a combination of beauty and location it attracted many different people to its picturesque shores. Christopher Mra Ngcukana, the Columbus of South African Jazz was an early pioneer of education and collaboration in the 40s. By the 50s Cape Town was already growing cosmopolitan and international through the port. The talented pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, was called Dollar , as he carried a Dollar to buy the latest jazz records from the visiting American sailors at the port. During the 60s, jazz gatherings at Green Point's Art Centre lead to the formation of saxophonist Winston “raging bull” Mankunku Ngozi seminal sound and the founding of The Jazz Workshop by vibes and piano player Merton Barrow and his wife Cynthia. This diligent school has remained the cornerstone for nurturing Cape Town jazz and is jokingly called the 'Hogwarts of Cape Town – place where magic happens.” University of Cape Town (UCT) jazz department was founded in 1989 by Mike Campbell after graduating with a jazz degree from North Texas State. It has spawned a host of accomplished players, who with dedication and good fortune have risen to fame with a singular approach,” explained Campbell. The political isolation of South Africa during the 70s and 80s resulted in a tremendous hunger to see “international musicians perform in a festival atmosphere that brings people of all persuasions together,” as Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) co- founder, photographer Rashid Lombard put it. The annual CTIJF was founded in 2000 and has grown ten-fold since. The event impacts R500 Million on the creative economy and contributes extensively to jazz education, training, skills and development across the sector. “Every year people depend on us for their livelihood. We have a moral obligation to maintain this event, if not expand,” explained festival Director Billy Domingo. There are inner city and suburban venues catering for African and collaborative jazz. The music promotion initiative “ Jazz in the Native Yards” founded by Koko Nkalashe hosts brings jazz music to the back-yards, cultural centres and informal spaces in the townships where people gather. These e vents offer the full African jazz experience of community, food and freedom.
International Jazz Appreciation Month:
UNESCO has named the Mother City the Global Host City of International Jazz Day 2020. The theme of the event, which takes place on April 30, features an All Star Global Concert is “Tracing the Roots and Routes of African Jazz.” The full month of April is Jazz Appreciation Month.
Cape Town and radical self expression:
Streetopia is a community based and family friendly event. The event was founded by the AfrikaBurn festival team in 2015 to fill the creative vacuum left by the demise of the long running Obsfest. AfrikaBurn is the second largest regional “Burning Man” event in the world. It attracted 14000 “burners” to their eleventh edition in the Tankwa Karoo National Park in April. Co-founder Monique Schiess said, “In essence, Streetopia is bringing the principles that guide the AfrikaBurn event to town, transporting what we do in the desert back into the “default world” as it were, and seeing what happens.” Burning Man is a leading “transformational festival,” with many regional events all over the world. The principles arose out of the Bohemian climate of challenging norms and seeking experiences exemplified by Burning Man founder, Larry Harvey and the ‘Cacophony society' in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco in 1986. “In San Francisco during the hippy movement the symbol of wearing the flower in the hair is that you have to go and find the others like you. It was the psychedelic movement and with the first Burn we found the others,” recalled Schiess. 1000 people attended the first AfrikaBurnand the event has grown exponentially. The event has added an eleventh guiding principle: ‘Each one, teach one,' which extends the principles of self-reliance to community awareness, whilst growing the community and the bottom up management of the organisation. “We wanted to carry across the message that it is every persons duty to acculturate others into the ethos and spread the culture rather than think that it belongs in a centralized authority,” Schiess explained. A guiding principle is ‘radical inclusion.'Participants define the event. Organizers are the enablers of the creative projects. “ These events work well asthey invite archetypal impulses of the participants to come out and play and create. Participants are being playful, happy, irreverent, serious, or whatever- and they are collaborating. This is a catalyst for change,” she said. Participants “gift” their content.This creates connections, friendships and builds the community and the event. Artwork, services, performances, live music, trays of cookies and sculptures are examples of some of the gifts that are contributed to the whole experience. “A gift is given with no expectation of anything in return. The point of it is to move away from the default world transactional practices, to be quite pure actually,” explained Schiess.
Over ten years of AfrikaBurn, Schiess has witnessed many exciting and innovative projects suchas the artwork of a mining engineer called James who designed a “beautiful flaming, singing, washing machine!” she said. “He never ever thought of himself as an artist,” explained Schiess. “One of things I love about AfrikaBurn is that it is a place of no judgement and everyone is a creator or artist. When you free that side of people, anything becomes possible. It becomes collaborative and playful. It is like exercising a muscle of working together . It is a change agent where fun is the vector for change. People are so inspired and so full of joy .” AfrikaBurn has built strong connections between collaborators, which contributes to the communities back at home. This social and community health impact is being monitored and evaluated using frameworks such as the gross national happiness parameters from Bhutan and the Julies Bicycle analysis tool. Schiess said, “With AfrikaBurn, the city infrastructure to creative project ratio is inverted compared to what it is in city. A town that it is utterly dominated by creative projects feels like a healthier space. With Streetopia we are attempting to do that inversion in town.”