Standard Bank National Youth Festival

Thami Mahlangu in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band at the 2015 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The band consists of top musicians in the country, aged niineteen to twenty five, under the guidence of legendary South African bassist, Concord Nkabinde (Photo: CuePix/Sithasolwazi Kentane)


Enjoying the great gifts at jazz concerts where the full range of South African jazz is mixed with European masters from the Netherlands, Sweden and Iceland underscores the eclectic mix that jazz always has been. One only need to look at the artists present, some look like they have driven a truck for days, other casual smart or even bow tied, they come in all sizes and shapes and are happy to share their music  with an even eclectic audience that has come for some great music. I like the atmosphere where students want to sit as close to the stage to make sure they see Bokani Dyer’s hands when he plays or that leave inspired when members of the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra have blown away the jazz lovers.

It is nice to see artist available after shows to see the big group of students lined up and encouraged to see as much shows as possible. It is relaxed and exciting as jazz can be. But to get there requires lots of work and a contingent of jazz students has gotten the opportunity to learn as much as possible in a very hectic schedule including masterclasses.from the performing artists, jam sessions and the studios that are always open to feel new grooves, meet like minded artists and become better sharers of their multiple gifts. That and much more is involved in the Standard Bank National Youth Festival that has become one of the country’s most significant jazz development programmes. 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, Siya Makuzeni, James Bassingthwaighte, Shaun Johannes, Monique Hellenberg, Ivan Mazuze, Dan Shout, Ayanda Sikade, Mimi Ntenjwa, Chris Engel, Prince Bulo, Mandla Mlangeni, Lwanda Gogwana, Sisonke Xonti, Thandi Ntuli and Melissa van der Spuy.

The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, with its extensive and intensive programme, culminates in the selection of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB) – this year under the musical direction of legendary South African bassist, Concord Nkabinde – and the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band (SBNSBB), with experienced jazz saxophonist and big band leader at Rondebosch Boys High School Marc de Kock at the helm for 2015.

Says festival director Alan Webster, regarded as one of this country’s pioneers when it comes to jazz education projects: “The aim of the festival has always been to inspire young musicians and we do this by allowing them to hear a wonderful diversity of great jazz, as well as to see what their peers are doing. They also get to meet top musicians from around the globe and the African Diaspora. The selection of the national bands encourages and stimulates excellence, while the event is a must-attend networking opportunity for students, musicians and educators.”

This year’s Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival will once again bring together more than 300 students and 40 teachers from diverse backgrounds around the country, enabling them to experience and interact with the 120 top musicians who form part of the concurrent Standard Bank Jazz Festival. and