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Sunday, April 5, 2009


(Pic: Kesivan Naidoo)

Standard Bank Jazz Festival to feature 2009 Young Artist winner, drummer Kesivan Naidoo.

One of the highlights of the annual National Arts Festival is the Standard Bank Jazz Festival.

From big band razzamatazz to the sub-sonic growl of the didgeridoo; the sounds of Vivid Africa juxtaposed with rhythms from the frozen wastes of Lapland; an intimate quintet tonight, a party with chart-topping Freshlyground tomorrow … the Standard Bank Jazz Festival is a world of contrasts, piling pleasure upon pleasure as a vast crew of musicians erode one’s last inhibitions.

Energy boiling over, pulses racing. A bevy of fabulous vocalists, scores of instrumentalists adept at anything you care to mention … they come from nine countries and represent some of the hippest directions being taken in jazz around the world.

Drummer Kesivan Naidoo carried off the Standard Bank Young Artist Award this year and he presents two concerts. Kesivan & the Lights could only happen at a festival! He recruits a combo of special mentors who have lit the way for him – Stockholm’s Johan Hörlén (saxophone); Australian trombonist Adrian Mears; Reza Khota, who is steeped in Indian and Classical guitar; Cape Town pianist Andre Petersen; and Swedish bass player Martin Sjöstedt. His second concert, Babu, reflects influences of his year-long sabbatical in India on a SAMRO scholarship. With Reza Khota (guitar), Shane Cooper (bass) and Ronan Skillen (tabla, percussion, didgeridoo) he fuses the vibrancy of jazz with the ancient improvisational practices of Indian Classical music.

In many ways these two concerts epitomise the magic of this festival: artists interacting with each other, experimenting with traditions as though time and space did not exist. The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (NYJF) runs parallel with the main jazz festival between July 2 and 5. Upwards of 300 students and 50 teachers gather for the NYJF, itching for new musical inspiration and keen to interact with the 80 musicians invited as performers and teachers. The youngsters present several concerts and get to jam with the pros in a special late slot each night.

By July 5 the two bands will have been constituted: the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band for people under the age of 26 and the Standard Bank National School’s Big Band for school learners. From their celebratory concerts on the festival stage, they go out into the world of jazz. Many of the graduates of the Youth Jazz festival have developed professional careers and returned to the festival to teach a new generation of hopefuls.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and The Sunday Independent. It runs from July 2 to 11, 2009, in Grahamstown. For more information