Showing up:  Internationally renowned pianist Abdullah Ibrahim is among the South African jazz legends who will perform at the 20th edition of the Joy of Jazz music festival, which is on at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 28-30.  Picture: MOELETSI MABE
Showing up: Internationally renowned pianist Abdullah Ibrahim is among the South African jazz legends who will perform at the 20th edition of the Joy of Jazz music festival, which is on at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 28-30. Picture: MOELETSI MABE

When Joy of Jazz was co-founded by impresario Peter Tladi and legendary musician Hugh Masekela 20 years ago at the State Theatre in Pretoria, Mantwa Chinoamadi was still at school. Her closest connection to the event was going to her brother-in-law T-Musicman Tladi’s office in Johannesburg to ask for a lift home.

Today, she produces the country’s biggest jazz festival, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. It is not an easy task.

"I was given this responsibility about four years ago, when Peter decided to take a break from being at the coal face of the festival," she says.

"He appointed me producer, while he wears the hat of executive producer — a ceremonial position, as he has surrendered over the years the responsibility of producing the show to me.

"Before I got this position, I had worked for music recording companies, doing everything from marketing to project management. When I eventually joined T-Musicman, I had to start from the lowest ranks, doing almost everything that is necessary for one to gain skills in a music promotion company.

"That prepared me for the big leap when, four years ago, I was made producer."

Chinoamadi says Tladi kept an eye on her and her team for a few years, ensuring that they were learning and executing the tasks required to stage an international music festival.

Mantwa Chinoamadi.     Picture: SUPPLIED
Mantwa Chinoamadi. Picture: SUPPLIED

"As producer it is my responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly, from the logistics of booking artists in advance, to making sure their flights are also booked," she says.

Her most important lesson was how to make contingency plans when things went wrong. And making changes is part of running a successful live event.

Gerri Allen was supposed to be invited this year, but passed away and Ramsey Lewis cannot fly to SA due to illness. Contingency plans had to be made.

Although bringing more than 180 musicians to Gauteng from destinations in SA and abroad is not the easiest of tasks, Chinoamadi says she is fortunate that Joy of Jazz is a well-known brand, respected internationally.

"At first, jazz artists from the US and the UK especially used to ask us, ‘Do you know Hugh Masekela, Caiphus Semenya, Jonas Gwangwa or Miriam Makeba’ before they agreed to be part of the line-up," she says.

"The answer would, of course, be yes. It is only then that they would take us seriously. It was helpful that we have artists in this country who are well-known across the world."

IT WAS HELPFUL THAT WE HAVE ARTISTS IN THIS COUNTRY WHO ARE WELL KNOWN ACROSS THE WORLD.

Legendary domestic artists always share the stage with some of the world’s best jazz brains at Joy of Jazz, and it appears the promoters have this year gone out of their way to select the best from SA, the rest of Africa and around the world.

Branford Marsalis, The Clayton Brothers, Christian McBride and the Joshua Redman Quartet join South African luminaries Abdullah Ibrahim, Semenya and Gwangwa in a three-day spectacle that promises magic.

Tladi is proud of this year’s line-up for the 20th edition of the event. "We spend a great deal of time both here and overseas, seeking out artists whom we believe will appeal to a wide spectrum of jazz fans," he says.

"We want to present a diverse range of jazz styles inclusive of the giants of jazz and the upcoming young lions. There is something for everyone in this year’s line-up which, we believe, is international and truly inspirational.

"The event will reinforce its status as SA’s foremost jazz festival, and one of the best on the African continent, thanks to our stellar line-up of musicians."

Six-time Grammy Award nominee Nnenna Freelon, who has built a reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer, will be one of the stars on the opening night of Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.

She will share the Dinaledi Stage with celebrated South African jazz vocalist Tutu Puoane and Thandiswa Mazwai with Belede Jazz Project, which features Nduduzo Makhathini, Herbie Tsoaeli, Ayanda Sikade and Mthunzi Mvubu.

The line-up includes three-time Grammy Award-winner Marsalis — who has continued to expand his skills as an instrumentalist, a composer, and the head of Marsalis Music — sax maestro Joshua Redman and his quartet and The Clayton Brothers, Jeff and John.

Other big international names include the five-time Grammy Award-winning US virtuoso bassist McBride, one of the most recorded musicians of his generation, the popular Mali superstar Salif Keita, Uganda’s Somi, Lesotho’s Tsepo Tshola, Maleh and Bhudaza Mapefane.

South African greats at this year’s edition are Ibrahim, Gwangwa and Semenya. Masekela, who had been due to perform on the final night, pulled out because he needed to rest following eye surgery. Roy Ayers will take his place.

Younger artists include Samro Overseas Scholarship winner Zoe Modiga, Standard Bank Jazz Award-winner Benjamin Jephta, Brenda Mtambo and the Madiba Bay Jazz Orchestra with special appearances by Phinda Matlala Mtya and Sisonke Xonti. Dutch superstar pianist Peter Beets will perform with his trio of Marius Beets, Gijs Dijkhuizen and Alexander Beets. Jazz pianist Beets has shared the stage with Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater and George Coleman during his illustrious career.

American singer-songwriter Musiq Soulchild (Taalib Johnson) will dispense his brand of music that blends R&B, funk, blues, jazz and gospel fused with a dash of hip hop.

Other highlights are performances by the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band and Selaelo Selota, the noted South African guitarist, composer, producer and teacher.

Hazel Chimhandamba, Standard Bank’s head of group sponsorship, congratulated T-Musicman on its milestone.

"It is an incredible achievement to have produced a world-class festival every year for the past 20 years and we’re proud to have been part of that journey for 18 of those years."

Standard Bank Joy of Jazz is at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 28-30.

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