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Friday, June 16, 2023



(All photographs supplied)

Afro-Soul to Choral, Jazz to Classical - The Sounds of #NAF2023

It's just two weeks to go until the National Arts Festival returns and there are even more reasons to make the trip to Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) from June 22 to July 2 this year. Here are some of the highlights of what to expect on the music programme at #NAF2023. 

(Left: Kesivan Naidoo)

Youth and Passion Top-up the National Jazz Festival

Now in its 36th year, the National Jazz Festival, Makhanda has become a barometer of South African jazz and this year its brimming over with spirit and a new generation of young jazz artists who are reshaping the genre.  

(Right: The Nomadic Orchestra)

The Nomadic Orchestra is all set for NAF2023

The focus is on new and young voices because the Jazz Festival acts as an engine room for jazz succession, mentorship and networking in South Africa through the National Youth Jazz Festival; a programme that gathers over 250 young musicians from schools, universities and informal institutions from around the country, to join the Festival, learn from each other and be inspired by the professional jazz heroes on stage. Many musicians on the programme at this year’s Festival took part in the National Youth Jazz Festival when they were students, and now return to the main stage.

Kesivan Naidoo brings his Big Band to the Festival

The programme includes The Nomadic Orchestra, Babalwa Mentjies, Reza Khota and Tara Sarter multi-instrumentalist Darren English and vocalist and music educator Natalie Rungan. A high point is undoubtedly the Kesivan Naidoo Big Band, led by the iconic drummer, whose jazz career began in Makhanda in 1995 with his selection to the National Schools Jazz Band. In a tribute to the Festival that he credits as a formative part of his career, Kesivan brings an impressive ensemble of South African and Swiss musicians that will play two shows at the Festival. Visit the website to see the rest of the programme and the great line-up of jazz artists and bands.

(Left: Msaki)

Msaki's Epic Journey

Msaki is the 2022 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music and her Festival works are an extraordinary journey into creativity at a pivotal moment in her life and career. She will also be marking her final performative appearance before a period of reflection and renewal. Her works encompass a Guy Butler stage performance titled Embo Time Travel Experiment. Her first show on the June 30 sold out in 48 hours, but another one is due to be released for July 1 at 18h30. Bookings for this second show open at noon on June 10, 2023, set a reminder to head for her showpage at noon tomorrow to grab those hot tickets.

 Msaki will also present Del’ukufa, a multi-media exhibition, and a magnificent celebration of the catalogue of her songs and Bawo Khusela, which will be performed in the Cathedral, arranged and accompanied by a 23-piece choir, uHadi ensemble and traditional String Quartet, as part of Spiritfest.


Msaki presents multiple works at NAF2023

Msaki will also hold a series of Ngoma Technology Workshops during the Festival in partnership with the Black Power Station. This includes an indigenous instrument-making workshop facilitated by KHNYSA and a discussion about the legacy of traditional music legend Madosini, as well as a creativity workshop with Msaki and a celebration of ancient future sounds and alternative Africa music through concert series ALTBLK >> FM.

 Msaki’s meteoric rise may have taken her far from the NAF’s Fringe stages of her early career and her school years in Makhanda (then Grahamstown) but the town is where she returns to close a chapter. As a space resonant with meaning, both personal and historical, her works will be rich in spiritual questions and focused on her journey inward; revisiting old sites of pain with the intention to heal and re-integrate the shadows of her past self. 

 (Right: Ami Faku)

Ami Faku and Vusi Nova Supercharge the Stages of NAF

The sounds of South African superstar Vusi Nova and the resonant voice of soulful singer, Ami Faku, will fill the Guy Butler Theatre in Makhanda’s Monument over the two Festival weekends. Vusi Nova takes the stage on June 24 at 20h00 and Ami Faku appears in two performances, one on Saturday July 1 at 21h30 and the other, an afternoon matinee, at 14h00 on the last day of the Festival (July 2). 

(Left: Vusi Nova)

Vusi Nova and Ami Faku

Both artists hail from the Eastern Cape; Nova leaving his New Brighton home at the age of 14 to pursue a career in music, and Faku growing up in Ezinyoka, where her father was a pastor, her early years filled with song. The artists share their heritage with another big music name on the bill at this year’s Festival. Eastern Cape born and raised Msaki will be performing at the NAF as the 2022 Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) for Music this year. 


Classics to Escape Into

(Above: The Boston Youth Orchestra - image Hilary Scott) 

In a real treat for classical music lovers, the Boston Youth Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing two concerts at the National Arts Festival; an evening performance in the Guy Butler Auditorium on June 23 and a Family Concert on June 24 at 11h00.

 "Conductor Benjamin Zander was put on this earth to set young people on their path to a lifelong relationship with music, whether they become professional performing musicians or not. Zander does many things well, but no one does what he does best any better – his work with youth orchestras is inspiring both to the players and to the audiences who hear them."

Richard Dyer, former Chief Music Critic of the Boston Globe

 Megan-Geoffrey Prins (Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, 2019) also presents a classical work - a solo piano recital that reflects on the canons of the past through the work of Ravel in (Re)Visions on June 24 and 25. 

(Left: Dikelo Mamiala)

 Dikelo Mamiala will perform in NEXT! on the Fringe programme at NAF 2023

Getting Behind the Mic on Fringe

The Fringe is packed with music across diverse genres, with works that include Gqeberha's own punk-fusion band Undead Generation, a batch of cabaret works from Wela Kepela including NEXT! , Vincent and Mad About the Boys and the exhilarating Kwantu Choir who are based in Makhanda. 

(Right: Kwantu Choir - image Mark Wessels)

Families look out for Shrek the Musical JR from Sonwa Sakuba Institute for the Performing Arts who are also bringing Afrika Sings! to the Festival. Standard Bank Ovation winners, The Muffinz will be back at The Black Power Station; and their ticket price includes a warm vegetarian meal to enjoy next to the bonfire! 

(Left: The Muffinz)

 To search all the music options at the Festival visit the National Arts Festival website. Watch out for the daily free concerts on the SAfm Sundowner Stage from 17h00-18h00 at The Monument to get a sneak peek at some of the shows on offer.


Great discounts for Standard Bank customers

Standard Bank cardholders qualify for a discount of up to 25% when using a valid Standard Bank debit, cheque or credit card to purchase tickets for the National Arts Festival. The discount is applicable to online purchases or at the Festival Box Office. This offer is subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.


Making it possible

The National Arts Festival is made possible through the generous support of partners, the Eastern Cape Government, Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and Standard Bank. They would also like to acknowledge HEINEKEN Beverages, the National Arts Council, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, Eastern Cape Development Corporation, Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Makana Municipality and Business and Arts South Africa as well as the Social Employment administered by the Industrial Development Corporation.