Today and Saturday (March 28th and 29th, 2008) South Africans and tourists celebrate the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The event boasts a big line-up of local and world renowned jazz performers all wooing crowds with their different musical talents. In Cape Town, Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Unathi Kondile tells us that 9 years ago, some14,000 jazz fans gathered at the Goodhope Centre in Cape Town to celebrate the first-ever North Sea Jazz Festival. Over the years, the event became known by its present name. It now attracts more than 33,000 visitors yearly and prides itself on being Africa’s grandest music gathering.
This year’s celebration features some of the world’s best jazz performers, including the Soul Brothers, Oliver Mtukudzi, Sergio Mendes, The Manhattans, Gerald Albright and many others.
Rashid Lombard is the chief executive officer of the company that organizes the event, espAfrica, “We’re going to our 9th year now. The programming is based on six stages, we’ve got 40 artists; 20 are African artists and the other 20 from the rest of the world. We cater for the serious jazz listeners, to the younger groups right down to the spoken word – hip-hop and house music,” he says.
Not only is the event about celebrating jazz, but it also provides a platform for people to come and see Cape Town’s beautiful sites, such as Table Mountain, Robben Island, as well as the various street markets. Local and International jazz artists also get the opportunity to meet one another and share ideas. The economic impact of the festival also benefits big and small businesses and contributes to the tourism and hospitality industries.
Rashid Lombard says, “Firstly, the festival has grown annually. Currently, we employ 1,720 people. It has added to the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] of the city at a 142 million rands [$20 million], which is part of cultural tourism. So certainly, jazz adds to the economy. So we also look at it as the cultural economy. Besides the economic benefit, there’s also 72 percent of the 33,000 people come from outside of Cape Town – they come from other provinces and other parts of Africa.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival promises to deliver the best performances ever this year. Tourists are walking around the streets and cars are branded with the festival logo. Nightclubs are ready for revellers to make their way to the various jazz parties throughout the city.