“When Mzantsi Jazz Awards were launched two years ago, some reacted to their arrival with skepticism.  Others were not sure if they would be hosted the following year. The reality however is that this year will the third consecutive instalment of the annual awards which are showing a significant growth”

Monday 15 July was a rather warm day for the winter season with maximum temperature in the mid 20’s.  Hatfield is known for the high presence of students mainly from University of Pretoria. Most of them were in their shorts and T-shirts having lunch in restaurants that have made Burnett Street a very vibrant street in this part of Pretoria.  Some of the people working in the area were also making their way to these restaurants which cater for diverse patrons.

Inside the offices of Mzantsi Jazz Awards located at the Hatfield Plaza, Dr Mongezi Makhalima was preparing to address a gathering of individuals including media that were invited to the announcement of nominees for the 3rd Annual Mzantsi Jazz Awards.  He is the founder of the awards which were first hosted in 2017 after observing a lack of recognition and appreciation for jazz compared to other music genres.

Dr Mongezi Makhalima. Picture by Zamindlela Zama

“It has been a learning experience for us as an organization, and the awards are slowly being taken seriously”, Makhalima told Jazz It Out. Last year’s awards had more media people attending compared to the inaugural ceremony.  The awards have also created an awareness among jazz audiences about the artists which has resulted in people wanting to collaborate and artists wanting to share and showcase their talent.

The consultative process for the awards involves individuals from the jazz industry who form part of the committee that meet on a regular basis to propose categories that should be part of the process.  And there is also a team on the ground that work with musicians and other individuals within the industry. “Fans and musicians are also given an opportunity to make recommendations and we have to acknowledge budgetary considerations since a big event requires huge sponsorship”, Makhalima said.

Drummer Ayanda Sikade. Picture by Sufi Don

Not only has 2019 seen more categories, there are also more nominees per category which signifies more involvement and participation by the jazz fraternity. Even international artists have expressed a willingness to perform at the awards. Makhalima attributes this to the awareness the previous two instalments of Mzantsi Jazz Awards have created.  Even the artists that have been associated with the awards from their inception still support the initiative and have contributed to their growth.

Some of the artists nominated for this year’s awards are from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Cuba, USA and other parts of Europe.  “We have added an international voting line since our local musicians and radio stations want their international compatriots to participate”, Makhalima told Jazz It Out.  They have received more international nominations from outside South Africa this year.

Pianist Andile Q. Picture by Fikile Samela

The categories of Best Radio Station Playing Jazz and Best Club/Venue for Jazzare very critical as they encourage the radio stations to play more jazz and audiences to belong to jazz clubs, attend sessions these clubs host and appreciate more live performances as jazz heads.  There’s an observation that a lot of public and commercial radio stations play less jazz which unfortunately deprives jazz enthusiasts of good quality music.

Counting of the votes per nomination is something that needs to be done with accuracy.  Robust debates form part of the process, something Makhalima describes as “the least glamorous part of the job” but has to be performed. The process is always handled by capable individuals who are aware that the integrity of the awards cannot be compromised.  They all understand that jazz is bigger than individuals.

There has been an increase in sponsorship as the awards receive more recognition. Pelonngwe Wellness & Spa have been paying for the accommodation of artists outside of Gauteng from the inaugural event.  NgiyiMbali wines will be providing their collection of fantastic wines for the second year of the awards.  National Lotteries Commission has come on board this year by donating cash that will go hand in hand with trophies given to winners.

Tefifi – Goddess of Creation by Gabi Motuba

Nominees for the Best Jazz Album are Andile Q- The Q Signature, The Unity Band- Fabric, Bokani Dyer Trio- Neo Native, Talie Monin- 24 Strathay, Sibusiso ‘Mash’Mashiloane- Closer To Home, Tune Recreation Committee- Africa Grooves with Tune Recreation, Zarcia– Therapy,Mandisi Dyantyi– Somandla, Ayanda Sikade– Movement, The Mill– When The Wind Blows, and Sihle Zungu– The Consolidation of Sihle Zungu.

Nominees for Best Jazz song are Talie Monin– Thula Mntwana, Ndivhuho NL– Thungununu Nemulando, Sibusiso ‘Mash’ Mashiloane– Closer To Home, SphaMdlalose– Lefatse, Titi Luzipho– Being a Woman, and The Unity Band– Trails.

Nominees for the Best Contemporary Jazz Album are Talie Monin– 24 Strathay, Ndivhuho NL– Thungununu Nemulando, Sibusiso ‘Mash’ Mashiloane– Closer To Home, Gabisile Motuba– Tefifi -Goddess of Creation, Abraham Mennen featuringAriel Zamonsky– Three Improvisations, Tune Recreation Committee– Africa Groove With Tune Recreation, Ayanda Sikade– Movement,Mandisi– Somandla, Sihle Zungu– The Consolidation of Sihle Zungu, The Mill– When The Wind Blow, and Carlo Mombelli– Angels And Demons.

24 Strathay by Talie Monin

Nominees for the Best Traditional Jazz Album are Khirishane – Khidola ka molaponi, Zarcia – Therapy, Thabang Tabane – Matjale.  Nominees for the Best Female Jazz Artist are Gabisile Motuba, Titi Tuzipho, Zarcia, Spha Mdlalose and Talie Monin. Nominees for the Best Male Jazz Artist are Andile Q, The Unity Band, Ndivhuho NL, Sibusiso ‘Mash’ Mashiloane, Benjamin Jephta, Carlo Mombelli, Sihle Zungu, Thabang Tabane and Ayanda Sikade.

Nominees for the Best Newcomer in Jazz are Ndivhuho NL, Spha Mdlalose, Andile Q, and Thabang Tabane.  Nominees for Best International Jazz Collaboration are The Mill – When The Wind Blows (with Mandla Mlangeni), Dominic Egli’s Plurism – Azania in Mind (with Feya Faku and Siya Makuzeni). Nominees for Best Foreign Jazz Album are Dominic Egli’s Plurism – Azania in Mind, Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded N.Y. Studio Sessions, Branford Marsalis – The Secret Between the Shadow and the Souls, Etuk Obong – Tales of Life & Miracles, Que Vola – Que Vola (No Format) and Swindle – No More Normal.

Nominees for the Best Radio Station Playing Jazz are Alex FM, All Jazz Radio ZA, Phalaphala FM, Jazzuary FM, Metro FM All Jazz, Radio CCFM 107.5 FM and Kofifi FM.  Nominees for the Best Club/Venue for Jazz are Innovation Jazz Club, Winnies, Special Effect Jazz Club and The Jazz Doctors. Nominees for the Lifetime Achievement Awards will be announced at the ceremony.

Aubrey Mokone, Thabo Cindi, Lawrence Msipha & Harriet Simelane from Special Effect Jazz Club. Picture by Zamindlela Zama

When asked where he sees Mzantsi Jazz Awards in the 3 to 5 years from now, Makhalima said: “I am looking at our 5 th anniversary and how to make that event a memorable one.  At the rate we are growing, I have a suspicion we will need a bigger venue, and a longer celebration beyond just the day of fantastic top talent music, but a whole year of small celebrations”.

This year’s Mzantsi Jazz Awards will be held at Gold Reef City Theme Park Hotel on Friday, 11 August 2019 at 18h00.  Tickets are sold at R320.  For more information on the voting procedure, where to purchase web tickets and all the information related to the awards, please visit their website www.zajazzawards.co.zaor drop them an email at info@zajazzawards.co.za.  Like their Facebook Page Mzantsi Jazz Awards, follow them on Twitter @ZaJazzAwards and Instagram @zajazzawards