It is unlike any jazz festival this jazz fan has experienced. Not JVC, not Playboy, not Long Beach, not North Sea, not Montreaux. It was, so to say, “proudly South African.”
The 12th annual Cape Town Jazz International Jazz Festival boasted nearly 50 acts from every corner of the world: the U.S., China, Spain, Germany, and of course, South Africa, Senegal, Angola, Mozambique, and a host of African countries. No genre or form of jazz is overlooked: straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, and funky jazz—it was all there.
But there remains a certain je ne sais quoi as to what separates this festival from the others. First of all, the nearly 50 acts take place over just two nights on five stages in the sparkling new and shiny Cape Town Convention Center. Try a new act you’ve never heard of. Don’t like it? No problem. Walk down the hall to another great act.
The crowd is exceptionally upscale. I qualify these remarks by confessing I hate crowds and am generally uncomfortable at large events like this. But never did I feel even a tad concerned for my safety or claustrophobic. One would think that among 30,000 members of the general public, it wouldn’t take much for a couple of guys who have been drinking to have a scuffle. Nope. Never saw it. Never felt like it could even happen.
And then there’s the corporate hospitality. Dozens of companies and tourism-related government agencies sponsor a “corporate village” for the convenience of their clients. It is better executed than what I’ve been privileged to experience at the U.S. Open tennis tournament or the U.S. Masters golf Tournament. The Cape Town Jazz Festival is very well-organized and structured like a true African village. The members of each “family” have their own home, but are free to engage with other members of other families’ homes. Food and drinks are excellent and in abundance. And the latest technology streams the acts onto big screens in each village home so that your search for a glass of fine South African merlot and a hot snack does not mean you have to miss out on any of the spectacular entertainment.
And by the way, before arriving at the festival on either night, you may have lounged on a white sand beach. You may have visited South Africa’s wine country and sampled some of the world’s best vineyards. You might have driven to Cape Point to see the Atlantic and Indian Oceans flow together, or observed the penguins at Simon’s Town. You might have traveled to the top of Table Mountain to sigh over breathtaking vistas of what is arguably the most beautiful city on planet Earth.
It’s simply awesome. The Cape Town Jazz Festival is “proudly South African.”