Fri Oct 21 22:24:50 SAST 2016


By Kulani Nkuna | Aug 27, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

IT IS not every day that one gets the chance to lament the modes of popular culture and their effect on jazz.

IT IS not every day that one gets the chance to lament the modes of popular culture and their effect on jazz.

But there I was at legendary trombonist Jonas Gwangwa's home, sipping apple juice and eating some delicious biscuits.

But that was not why I was there. I was on Joy of Jazz Festival business. In order for me to get to the matter at hand, I had to make further enquiries about this legend's astonishing history and the current state of jazz.

Africans are well aware of the fact that one cannot just waltz into somebody's home, greet and then proceed to the reason why you are there. You have to enquire about the family, their health and wellbeing before you delve into the reason for your visit.

So, first things first. Gwangwa, pictured, has had an illustrious career spanning more than three decades. He was one of the original members of the Jazz Epistles alongside Dollar Brand, aka Abdullah Ibrahim, and Bra Hugh Masekela. He was also involved in King Kong. He eventually ended up in the the US to avoid the repressive apartheid government.

He attended the prestigious Manhattan School of the Arts and became a famous musician and film score composer.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the nitty gritty.

How was the South African music scene when you came back in the early 1990s?

"The first thing that hit me was people performing on football grounds. Jazz was a generic term and we were all put together with these kids doing other things. The scene had changed," he says.

Ever the purist, I chime in with my discomfort at many a show where a jazz musician is followed by some young delinquent spitting undecipherable words into a microphone with his pants revealing his underwear.

Gwangwa says "jazz is still a generic term to this day.When you talk about jazz here, you could be talking Mango Groove, Malaika," he says with a chuckle.

Does jazz have a future here?

"It is coming up. There are a lot of genres getting their share of the spotlight. People have the right to choose their brand of music. But jazz will always be an integral part of the scene. I see more and more young people at real jazz shows nowadays.

The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz is celebrates its 10-year anniversary and fans can expect a great show from Jonas Gwangwa.

"Performing at the Joy of Jazz means that I can select songs from my diverse repertoire. I will hit them with some of the old favourites and some new songs from my CD Kukude," he says.

With that, I leave his abode knowing that he will give a great performance at the festival. I can't wait.

He performs at Dinaledi Stage on Saturday at 8.15pm.


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