South African jazz greats shine at London festival


Formidable pianist, Bokani Dyer, was in fine form on the opening day of the EFG London Jazz Festival. His sold out performance was followed by South Africa jazz greats Abdullah Ibrahim and Louis Moholo-Moholo. (Image: EFG London Jazz Festival)

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Shamin Chibba

The best of South African jazz was on stage at the Vortex Jazz Club in the UK over the weekend as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, one of the world’s premier jazz events. The festival is part of the SA-UK Seasons 2014-2015, a cultural exchange programme showcasing South African artists in Britain.

Bokani Dyer led South Africa’s charge on the opening night on Friday 14 November with a sold out performance. Described by festival organisers as a formidable young pianist with strong individual sound, Dyer has recorded two albums, Mirror in 2010 and Emancipate the Story in 2011. Alan Webster, director of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, has described Dyer as “technically skilled beyond his years and artistically creative in a wide array of jazz genres. He is undoubtedly someone who is going to add to the breadth of South African jazz in the future.” From his performance in London, Dyer is clearly fulfilling that promise.

Watch: Bokani Dyer’s performance at The Mahogany Room Jazz Club in Cape Town

Also on Saturday, drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo performed with the Dedication Orchestra, a 24-piece jazz ensemble he founded in the early 1990s that pays tribute to his former bands, the Blue Notes and the Brotherhood of Breath.

Watch: the Dedication Orchestra at the Verona Jazz Festival

On the same day the festival held two talks on “South Africa 20 years on and the legacy of the Blue Notes”. These featured musicians and specialists discussing the impact of South African musicians exiled by apartheid on the British local scene and explored South Africa’s music over 20 years of democracy.

Watch: Louis Moholo-Moholo at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival

The festival also made a remarkable tribute to the late pianist, saxophonist and composer Bheki Mseleku, when British flautist Gareth Lockrane played some of his lost compositions, never heard before. Lockrane closely collaborated with the Durban-born Mseleku and was part of his quartet in the three years before he passed away in 2008. Other artists at the festival included veterans Abdullah Ibrahim and his septet, Ekaya.

Watch: Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival

Watch: Bheki Mseleku playing “Mngoma” and “Through the Years”