The joy of jazz

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Cementing its commitment to the arts in South Africa and the continent, Standard Bank has renewed its sponsorship of the Joy of Jazz Festival for a further three years, extending its 16-year relationship with the festival. IndustrySA speaks with Hazel Chimhandamba, Head of Group Sponsorships at Standard Bank and asks why it is that the arts continue to hold such a prestigious place in the hearts of South Africans.

Q: Tell us about Standard Bank’s sponsorship renewal of the Joy of Jazz Festival – why is this sponsorship so important? What is the history of this sponsorship?

Standard Bank has sponsored the Joy of Jazz Festival for 16 years now and we have renewed the sponsorship for an additional three years. This sponsorship is important to our overall arts portfolio because the festival speaks to the growth of the arts in Africa and jazz as a genre is an integral part of the history of South African music. We have been delighted to see the festival grow so rapidly over the years and it now attracts over 20 000 concert goers, which motivated the move to Joburg’s Sandton Convention Centre last year.

Q: What does the Joy of Jazz Festival entail? How does it showcase the very best of jazz? What is the line-up for this year?

The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival promises a mix of both South African and international jazz greats, with the addition of exciting once-off musical collaborations. Central to the line-up is the undeniable depth and broadness of the music on offer, evident in the list of artists set to headline this year, which includes US-based Miles Davis alumni Marcus Miller, The Yellow Jackets, jazz vocalist and Grammy Award nominee Cecil McLorin Salvant and Chicago-born jazz singer, Dee Alexnder. The 3 Cohens – made up of tenor saxophonist and clarinettist Anat Cohen, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen – live up to the promise of genius that happens when jazz meets the genome factor, plus multi-award winning singer-songwriter Peabo Bryson will captivate audiences with new hits and unforgettable classics. Add to this a host of exciting collaborations, such as Hugh Masekela with Oliver Mtukudzi and Jimmy Dludlu & Friends and the programme really does have something for everyone!

Q. The arts hold such a prestigious position in South Africa – why does Standard Bank want to be involved and how do you think it helps to benefit the industry? Why the dedication to jazz in particular?

The arts in Africa are a powerful expression of our creativity and play an integral part in generating a positive narrative with a global impact. Our mandate at Standard Bank is to support a wide range of initiatives that both nurture young talent and showcase the rich diversity of our creative arts. Standard Bank’s commitment to investing across the arts spectrum on the continent represents a 30-year legacy and we are proud to provide ongoing support for a variety of key projects, which have evolved into highlights across the South African and African cultural calendar.

Jazz, in particular, is a genre that has formed a part of South Africa’s musical landscape with a strong historical presence. The growth of this genre and how it has developed over time, incorporating different cultural sounds and embracing younger generations, has cemented its importance as an artistic platform that Standard Bank is committed to supporting.

Q. With the Children’s Arts Festival held in July this year, how is Standard Bank’s sponsorship used? Why do you think it’s so important to get children involved in the arts?

The Children’s Arts Festival is an integral part of Standard Bank’s commitment to developing young minds and harnessing their talent. Children from pre-primary to high school are engaged in a wide range of fun arts-related activities that not only provide them with entertainment, but serve educational function as well. The festival encourages young people from all walks of life to interact with each other on a creative level.

Q. What can we expect from the Standard Bank Jazz Festival at Grahamstown this year? How has this festival evolved over the years? How does it add to the arts industry in South Africa?

This year’s Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown promises a selection of the most exciting jazz innovators both locally and internationally.

The line-up includes an array of global jazz maestros such as Lionel Loueke, Yuri Honing, The Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, Johan Horlen and Peter Dahlgren. There will also be unique collaborative performances by some of the previous Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) winners such as Concord Nkabinde, Bokani Dyer, Kesivan Naidoo and 2015 SBYA winner Nduduzo Makhathini with a range of international names at the festival. Both international and local music lovers will be drawn to a mix of solid jazz and fresh crossover and contemporary sounds provided by the likes of Thandiswa Mazwai, Beatenberg, Micasa, Ray Phiri and Oliver Mtukudzi.

Q. Can you tell us about Standard Bank’s support extending into education of the arts – with the National Youth Jazz Festival and National Youth Jazz Band? In addition, Standard Bank also offers career development with the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards, how has this commitment helped to establish and further the careers of aspiring young artists?

The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival has been going for 23 years now, with more than 300 students and 40 teachers from different backgrounds attending every year. These students and teachers get the chance to interact and engage with 120 top musicians who form part of the concurrent Standard Bank Jazz Festival. The programme includes innovative jazz performances, rehearsals, workshops, lectures and networking, culminating in the top jazz students in South Africa auditioning for places in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB) and the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band (SBNSBB), the latter of which is regarded as the most significant single youth jazz development initiative in the country.

On the two separate adjudication panels for these bands are teachers, lecturers and leading musicians. The SBNYJB performs at major festivals around South Africa and occasionally tours internationally.

All other students who attend the festival are divided into mixed-ability big bands who practise daily, allowing students who do not normally play in a quality ensemble the chance to do so.

Some of the country’s top performers have participated as students in this acclaimed event – now in its 23rd year – including, at different times, Kesivan Naidoo, Beatenberg’s Matthew Field, Tutu Puoane, Kyle Shepherd, Goldfish’s Dominic Peters and David Poole, who met at the festival, Bokani Dyer and Siya Makuzeni, to name just a few!

Q. Now Head of Group Sponsorships at Standard Bank – what was your history prior to this role? Why do you think the arts is so important to not only children, but South Africa as a country? What do you hope to see in this industry over the next 2-3 years?

I have been a marketer for over 10 years with specialised skills in brand, advertising, events, communications and sponsorships, spread across the ICT and financial services sectors as well as an agency environment. 

The arts forms an integral part of our culture and its appreciation by the young and the old is vital in unlocking the opportunities that lie in the arts fraternity; art creates employment, drives social cohesion and contributes to the national GDP, but this is not possible if we do not breed and nurture artists and those who consume art. Over the next few years I hope to see more support for the arts in South Africa by both the public and private sector, but my ultimate dream is for every South African to be able to name at least three local artists and be able to identify the works of our great arts legends across the various disciplines.

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