I recently published an article titled “Standard Bank knows the Joy of Jazz”. In retrospect, I question this conversation-pleasing headline more and more through the recollection of my 2015 Standard Bank Joy of Jazz experiences inside the Sandton Convention Centre for the second consecutive year.
Instead of carrying unsatisfactory memories and uncertainties of intention: I’m publicly appealing for us to question what Standard Bank Joy of Jazz stands for! Rightfully and respectively directing these observations to the noteworthy likes of Executive Producer slash founder of the SBJOJ programme, as well as T-Musicman, Peter Tladi; Joint Chief Executives of Standard Bank, Sim Tshabalala and Ben Kruger; Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa (representing other government institutions involved) as well as “The Engine Behind” the programme which includes: Khanya PR, Octagon SA, Ritevac Media, Semopa Entertainment and Tsalena Media.
Taking the multitude of stakeholders into consideration makes it even more mind-boggling to fathom how the hash-tag SBJOJ barely left a rippling impression on social media platforms, with regards to trending*. Not only over the course of the three day festival but throughout the entirety of the road to Joy of Jazz: which incorporates the Breakfast Colloquium, the Golf Day, the Discover competition, Jazz Cares, Music School Workshops as well as Geleza Kleva and Learn. These dynamic calendar events commenced after the artist line-up announcement on the 19th of May 2015.
Of course, successful social media campaigns cannot be conditioned as a universal standard; however, our criterion of appeal has shifted and therefore, cannot go without recognition. It might be beneficial to readjust our beliefs into understanding that social media is reflective of an overall business strategy! So please note it is safe to form your own conclusions, based on my deduction of the 18th edition during Joy of Jazz’s chronicles:
- An amazing assembly of over forty international and local artists, classified under the Jazz genre.
- An absence of successfully documenting SBJOJ’s entire calendar event structure.
- Lack of logistical planning when presenting the programme to the public.
- Ineffectively engaging with audiences’ due to inconsistent sound/technical team support at SCC.
- Depriving City of Johannesburg citizens of a manifestation of their city’s true beauty.
Before you assume this article (purely) stands as criticism or mockery of SBJOJ, please understand that I am grateful for the preservation and presentation of events as prestigious as Joy of Jazz. I understand; how risky it must have been to establish the Joy of Jazz dream in ‘97 SA. Business models must change in order to keep flowing with the current. It takes a great vision and an even greater level of tenacity for such an event to continue flourishing eighteen years down the line.
Throwback to the late 90’s and you’ll probably find there were a number of people who weren’t too pleased to find out that Joy of Jazz was due to move from the State Theatre in Pretoria to Newtown, Johannesburg in the year 2000 – thanks to sponsorship of Standard Bank… Much like the Y2K myth mildly affected our lifestyles, the location shift of the Joy of Jazz event saw to its continued success, further powering T-Musicman’s primary mission to “grow South Africa’s live music scene into a vibrant and dynamic sector of the music industry”.
In the year 2000, The City of Gold was the perfect place to plant this surging brainwave. Newtown: an avant-garde area which had always served as “the birthplace of business in Johannesburg”. Newtown being; an economic frontier for realists and romantics alike, altered into a perimeter which has continually evolved our understanding of human interaction inside spaces such as Museum Africa which was established in 1935, The Market Theatre, founded in 1976; Carfax, founded in 1985; The notorious Kippies Jazz Club which existed between 1986-2005; Bassline, established in 1994; Nikki’s Oasis, founded in 1995; Shikisha (formerly known as Horror Café, 1998) and The Vuyani Dance Theatre, established in 1999. Newtown obviously serves as a milestone for Joburgers, more especially after the commencements of its rejuvenation in 2010. Why would SBJOJ no longer want to call this home after thirteen glorious years?
Thirteen years which people recollect in sheer splendour. The Conga, Diphala, Dinaledi and Mbira stage lit up the Newtown nightlife by occupying a few of the above mentioned venues. SBJOJ usually spans over the course of three days. The opening ceremony held in a premium venue on the first evening, then took to the Newtown streets for the final two twilights. Although tickets were sold separately per stage, audience members had the opportunity to catch a few free shows if they could only afford one venue ticket. Artists united as part of the public – having the potential to mingle whilst sipping on something stronger than tea or coffee. The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz vibe was unrestricted, unmistakable and unmissable! Remember those days?
But now, we’ve been forced to conform… Constrain our jazzy identities into the richest square mile in Africa. A constriction which outcasts and outgrows our indigenous people! So much so, that our local performing artists were rigorously and uncomfortably policed each time they entered the SCC building, whilst international artists are treated like kings and queens on our soil. We now call the SCC home of SBJOJ – disguising our apparent inferiority complex by, generally, only showcasing South Africa as a premium destination behind whiteness. We’ve abdicated our freedom to lend ourselves to becoming statistic and economic intensifications. All 29 000 of us who attended SBJOJ in 2015 have silently accepted the shift from Newtown to Sandton. Yet, I don’t blame us for loving jazz enough to support it. I do, however, find us responsible for continuing to allow T-Musicman, Standard Bank, The Department of Arts & Culture, “The Engine Behind” the event, the Gauteng Province, the City of Joburg as well as Gauteng Tourism and Joburg Tourism to lead us onto a treacherous path which clearly disregards our understanding of what jazz stands for, especially in a place like Newtown!
“Jazz music has always made powerful statements about freedom, creativity & personal identity.” A quote by D C Dowdell, which I’d much rather replace with one of an African artist, but still captures the essence of my emotions towards Jazz. Which brings me to my point of: not entirely being sure what the SBJOJ archives comprise of. Not only that, I don’t know what story they’re currently attempting to articulate. Perhaps it’s how their festival increased from 2 000 attendees at the Newtown birthing to; 21 000 attendees in 2011 to; 29 000 in 2015. Maybe it’s how the festival grew to being deemed worthy of more swanky and high-quality venues?
Nevertheless, I strongly believe their story is currently being told and sold inaccurately! Just out of curiosity… Whatever happened at a Joy of Jazz Breakfast Colloquium, in terms of the finalisation of ideas or conversation? Where would one find the initiation and development of the Jazz Cares programme? How do the Geleza Kleva and Learn recipients benefit from the event with regard to showcasing print or digital references? Why on Allah’s Earth were SAMA award winning Sibusiso Dlamini’s band (with 1,322 Likes · 788 views) and highest-voted ZuCo (with 1,527 Likes · 1,155 views) from the #Discover competition, placed in the SCC food court during SBJOJ 2015!? Correct me if I’m wrong, but their performance information was not even printed on the official programme. These are rhetorical questions which deserve practical solutions.
Stagnation of progress in anything, though justifiable, cannot be pardoned! May the SBJOJ event please get with the programme and instill or inspire national Jazz pride on a large scale and simply not towards the elite. May they take digital documentation and archiving seriously by inviting diverse media personnel to their various events and not only the main festival? May SBJOJ please stop treating attendees like underage children and allow us to drink alcoholic beverages in peace during performances although; I expect no better from an elitist environment that doesn’t want any celebration “too loud”! May South African artists please be treated with the same respect as “Dinaledi” the stars we import so frequently? May SBJOJ pretty-effing-please have its opening ceremony at The Sandton Convention Centre and continue proceedings in Newtown like old times?
Nokwanda Zakiyyah Shabangu believes people cannot flourish without authentic books, music, dance and love. The most sincere forms of expression.