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South Africa’s greats take the lead in Afro-Jazz at Jazz Fest

Published on 10 June 2014

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown 2014 incorporates a variety of disciplines into its programme. Afro-Jazz is one of the genres regularly highlighted at the festival and this year’s Afro-Jazz line-up features the crème of the crop in this entertaining genre. It is just one part of the star-studded Jazz programme which includes Mainstream, Blues/Funk/World Music, Modern Jazz, Youth and the Standard Bank Jazz and Blues Café.

The headliner for the Afro-Jazz portion of the programme is none other than Hugh Masekela – world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer and political voice, with an international career spanning over 50 years and 40 albums to his name. Hugh has worked with artists as diverse as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba. In 2010, President Zuma honoured him with the highest order in South Africa, The Order of Ikhamanga, and 2011 saw Masekela receive a Lifetime Achievement award at the WOMEX World Music Expo in Copenhagen. The US Virgin Islands proclaimed ‘Hugh Masekela Day’ in March 2011. Not long after, Masekela joined U2 on stage during the Johannesburg leg of their 360 World Tour; U2 frontman Bono described meeting and playing with him as one of the highlights of his career. In 2012 Masekela toured Europe with Paul Simon on the Graceland 25th Anniversary Tour and opened his own studio and record label, House of Masekela. Hugh will be accompanied in Grahamstown by Randal Skippers (keyboards/vocal), Cameron Ward (guitar/vocal), Fana Zulu (bass), Lee-Roy Sauls (drums/vocal), and Godfrey Mgcina (percussion/vocal).

Multi-platinum award-winning South African singer/songwriter Lira will be performing her signature fusion of soul and funk with elements of jazz and African music, accompanied by Petrus Mngomezulu (keyboard), Kenton Windvogel (guitar), Earl Baartman (bass) and Joshua Zacheus (drums). Lira has won a multitude of accolades from the South African Music Awards, MTV Africa Awards, Channel O Awards, Metro FM and MOJO Awards, as well as being Glamour Magazine South Africa’s “Woman of the Year” in 2008. Lira was the first African artist to release a full HD DVD on Blu Ray (3x Platinum) and she is the highest selling vocalist in South Africa, having released five platinum selling albums on Sony Africa.

SAMA winner and well-loved local musician Jimmy Dludlu will be entertaining Grahamstown supported by Sisonke Xonti (sax), Camillo Lombard (keyboards), Lucas Khumalo (bass), Anthon Mannel (drums), John Hassan (percussion) and Thomas Dyani (percussion). His style includes a wide range of influences, combining both traditional and modern elements of jazz drawn from the likes of Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Metheny and South African legends Hugh Masekela and Allen Kwela. He has received several SAMA awards, including Best Newcomer (1998), Best Male Artist (1998, 2000 & 2006) and Best Jazz Album (2000 & 2006). To date he has released seven albums, including his latest release, Tonota, which was received with critical acclaim.

A special international Festival Big Band pays tribute to some of the greats of South African jazz. Nick Smart – Head of the Jazz Department of the Royal Academy of Music in London – conducts this all-star band of professionals from South Africa and five other countries including Tutu Puoane, Pekka Pylkkänen, Marc de Kock, Gary Keller, Mike Rossi, Justin Bellairs, Sydney Mavundla, Lee Thomson, Sakhile Simani, Bertil Strandberg, Justin Sasman, Kyle du Preez, Siya Charles, Mageshen Naidoo, Ewout Pierreux, Rich Syracuse and Jeff Siegel.

Other performances in Afro-Jazz include pianist, producer and composer Themba Mkhize, jazz pianist Adam Glasser, guitarist Louis Mhlanga and trumpeter Feya Faku – to name just a few in the talented line-up.

A new Jazz Festival venue – the Standard Bank Jazz & Blues Cafe at St. Aidan’s – will offer a great jazz show every night at 21.30 with a 23.30 jazz jam session where professional and student musicians drawn from across the Jazz genres will be jamming, improvising and letting loose late into the night.

The 40th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place 3 – 13 July 2014. For more information check or To book, go to