Peter Tladi, the music man who blows joyous life into jazz
Joy of Jazz, giving African music a global platform, turns 21 this year
When impresario Peter Tladi ran a night club in the Vaal Triangle in the 1970s, he probably never imagined, even in his wildest dreams, the shape of his future career.
Tladi is indisputably one of the top five, if not the leading, promoters of live music on the African continent. He prefers to call himself a music producer when talking about jazz.
There are good reasons why he is revered, especially among musicians hoping to make it big by performing live in SA.
Over the past 15 years live performances have become very important in musicians’ careers and for their incomes, as the digital world disrupted the manner in which music is distributed and consumed. In many ways, live gigs determine who succeeds and who does not make it commercially.
Digital music channels allow consumers to access their favourite tunes at a mere fraction of what it used to cost to buy a record, cassette or CD.
Promoters such as Tladi have played a major role in the elevation and appreciation of jazz in SA in the past two decades. Tladi founded what has become one of the most recognisable and respected brands in jazz promotion on the continent.
His company T-Musicman, established 21 years ago, is firmly committed to promoting SA and African live music, in particular jazz.
"That is why every year at the Joy of Jazz festival, 90% of musicians in the line-up are from SA, with a good continental representation and the rest coming from all over the world," Tladi says.
"This is deliberate on our part as we want to send the message that SA is an important contributor to the art of jazz in the world. Joy of Jazz audiences over the years have responded positively to the line-up mix that favours local musicians.
"But, of course, we also need to have the top names in jazz from around the world, as we must give SA music lovers an opportunity to watch them perform, and also to cater for overseas audiences that come all the way here to watch artists perform," says Tladi.
"In this way we also open opportunities for local artists to be spotted by overseas promoters, who invite them to other jazz festivals after watching them perform at Joy of Jazz."
Tladi launched Joy of Jazz at the State Theatre in 1997, after getting advice on organising a music festival from world-renowned trumpeter and flugelhorn player Hugh Masekela.
The festival has grown over the years, attracting up to 30,000 fans each year, booking artists from around the world, and discovering new talent.
It has always had Standard Bank as its main sponsor, but has over the years attracted more sponsors and partners due to its brand equity. The national department of arts & culture and the City of Johannesburg are also partners.
The festival organises activities throughout the year, running workshops, smaller concerts and events known as the Road to Joy of Jazz, culminating in the finale in Sandton featuring more than 25 artists.
This year’s impressive line-up includes song-stylist Cassandra Wilson (US), trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Roderick Pauli, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassist Reginald Veal, pianist Courtney Bryan, drummer Herlin Riley (US) and the phenomenal pianist Amina Figarova, who is based in New York.
SA’s tried and tested jazzmen Feya Faku, Khaya Mahlangu, Thandi Ntuli, Mthunzi Mvubu, Barney Rachabane, Sydney Mavundla, Steve Bokani Dyer, McCoy Mrubatha, Paul Hanmer and Mbuso Khoza will also be on stage.
From the rest of the continent artists include Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe), Femi Koya (Nigeria), Kenya’s Nairobi Horns, and the leading voices of Mozambican marrabenta music — Wazimbo and Banda Kakana.
Tladi says the festival’s economic spin-offs in and around Johannesburg are huge.
"We have commissioned research from North West University that has revealed that the Joy of Jazz impacts positively on other businesses such as hotels, restaurants, car rental companies, and security and catering companies, for example," the impresario reveals.
"However, I dream of a day when every restaurant on every corner of the city will — in one way or another — be affected by Joy of Jazz, hosting their own shows during the festival, just like the London Jazz Festival manages to achieve. That, in my view, is not far-fetched," Tladi says confidently.
The 21st Standard Bank Joy of Jazz is at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 27 to 29.