By CityLife Arts Writer
This is not a burial; it’s a resurrection as the title of the film goes; and so it shall be on March 4 at the Marabastad Jazz Festival within the halls of the South African State Theatre’s (most fittingly) Malombo stage.
It will be a day to honour those creative spirits of Marabastad who were relocated to single-race townships further away from the city centre by the white regime. It will be a time to tend to the dead. To honour the dead and their dreams, thoughts and their pain, as per Gabi Motuba on her new offering, The Sabbath, which comprises vocals, a string quartet, trumpet and Malombo drums. This performance will serve as a launch ahead of the album’s release.
The Marabastad Jazz Festival emerges from a rich history that includes warrior king Kgoshi Maraba Ledwaba I, the diverse melting pot of Marabastad, and its artistic ebullience before forced removals took hold. With prominent figures from Tshwane’s jazz, blues, and Malombo traditions, the inaugural edition is sure to become a staple in the city and worldwide.
Also filled to the brim with the harmonic laments of Norman Chauke, Azah Mphago and Ayanda Sikade - the festival is a rare curatorial triumph. Chauke has composed a song titled, Marabi a ko Marabastad for the occasion which will be played for the first time at the festival. “I grew up listening to my father, who was a jazz artist, and his band members rehearsing in our garage on weekdays preparing for their weekend gigs,” Chauke says.
“They played a lot of Marabi music, and from that young age, I knew that I wanted to be a jazz musician. This is where I first learned to play the piano and other musical instruments,” Chauke explained.
Mphago will pay tribute to Marabastad through various visual and musical interpretations. This Pitori man of thought is a Pan Africanist expert percussionist, vocalist, conservationist and sonic healer whose music uses trans-disciplinary creative practices of ritual performance, clinical improvisation, pedagogy, activism, theatre movement and multi-media.
Present on the day will be Zim Ngqawana;s drummer of choice, Ayanda Sikade. The revered composer and collaborator holds a deft touch that moves audiences in unison.
“Sikade isn’t a flashy drummer given to crescendi and ten-minute ooh-ya solos. He’s a quiet, precise musician with a light touch on the sticks and an even lighter one with the brushes. He rides his kit easy, not hard. When you hear a cymbal or drum-roll, it’s deliberate punctuation, not listen-to-me volume,” says jazz critic and scholar, Gwen
Ansell on Sikade’s playing and style. The event will be hosted by revered writer and author Percy Mabandu. Produced by Project Forty, Spotlight Creations and Khwerha Ye Afrika Projects, the festival is not only an aural feast for music lovers but a time to remember some of the foundations of South African jazz’s marabi and classical sounds.
Marabastad was a culturally diverse community, with the Hindu Mariamman Temple
arguably being its most prominent landmark. Like the residents of other racially diverse
areas in South Africa, such as District Six, Fietas and Sophiatown, the inhabitants of
Marabastad were relocated to single-race townships further away from the city centre.
These removals were due to Apartheid laws like the Group Areas Act. Unlike
Sophiatown, Fietas and District Six, it was not bulldozed, but it retained many of its
original buildings, and became primarily a business district, with most shops still owned
by the Indians who had also lived there previously. Some property was however owned
by the city council and the government, resulting in limited development taking place
there. In addition, a large shopping complex was built to house Indian-owned shops.
The black residents of Marabastad were relocated to Atteridgeville (1945), the Coloured
residents to Eersterus (1963), and the Indian residents to Laudium (1968). There are
plans to revive once-picturesque Marabastad, and to reverse years of urban decay and
neglect, although few seem to have been implemented as of 2005.
*Tickets to this great mark in history that not only seeks to celebrate but to preserve the
heritage of South Africa can be bought via Webticket and through the South African
State Theatre at R200 per ticket.
Get your ticket now on:
The Marabastad Jazz festival is set to become a hallmark annual event, showcasing
South African jazz talent. The festival is powered by PESP through the National Art
Council and the Department of Sports Arts and Culture is a tribute to the once vibrant,
multicultural, and multiracial slum called Marabastad.