For more than a year, South Africa has been on a lockdown as a result of Covid.  The lockdown had a negative impact on the country’s economy. In its early stages, most businesses were ordered not to operate.  Even some government services were suspended.  Schools and tertiary institutions were closed.  There was an international travel ban which grounded planes to runways.  Social gatherings were also not permitted because of the concerns they would increase the infection rate for this pandemic.

The arts and entertainment industry was one of the severely affected sectors.  Cancellation of concerts, festivals, corporate gigs and other events which require live music meant that musicians were not guaranteed an income as most rely on live performances to earn a living. The country was on a panic mode with its concerned citizens wondering if there was an immediate solution to the crisis.  Alternative ways for musicians to make money such as live stream concerts were introduced.

Vocalist Deelee Dube. Picture by Sara Pintado

After the easing of the lockdown restrictions, venues were allowed to have concerts with a very small number compared to what they could accommodate before the outbreak of Covid.  This did not offer much relief to musicians who were feeling the effects of this lockdown.  Despite all these problems we are facing as a country, this did not stop musicians from recording albums which have caught the attention of jazz compilers, presenters and producers who have played them on their slots, as well as interviewing musicians on what influenced such recordings.

Some jazz musicians are resilient.  They are real fighters who did not allow the pandemic to discourage them from releasing their bodies of work.  Jazz It Out is extremely proud of artists who recorded brilliant albums in a year of uncertainties which are among the best in the world.  As the founder of Mzantsi Jazz Awards (MJA), Dr Mongezi Makhalima aptly said, this year’s awards are not really about the awards.  “They are about music and celebrating the music”, he said.  The 2021 edition of Mzantsi Jazz Awards will be held virtually on Saturday, 28 August.

Makhalima admitted that preparations for this year’s ceremony were not the easiest considering South Africa state of economy, which made it extremely difficult to secure sponsorships as most corporates recorded losses in their financial reports.  His sheer determination and experience of hosting the event has made it possible to maintain consistency in preparing for the 5th instalment of the MJA.  The modest coach and academic is quick to explain that the awards are for musicians.  “It theirs – not ours”, he said.  It’s the support from the adjudicators that motivates him to continue with this idea which recognizes hard work in recording jazz albums.

Heritage From An African Continent by Jesse Mogale

The experience by the MJA of hosting awards online in 2020 will be quite useful in 2021.  This will be the second year in a row whey there will be streaming the ceremony and have figured it out from last year how to make it inclusive where the audience will feel an integral part of it.  Some of their previous winners, particularly from the first year have been invited to attend.  “The love of music, exposing our jazz and recognizing our jazz is not something we take for granted”, Makhalima said.  It is something they take quite seriously.

Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane, Boney James, Ziza Muftic, Dr Jonas Gwangwa, McCoy Mrubata, Ndabo Zulu and Spha Mdlalose are some of the musicians that were awarded at the MJA in 2020.  The impressive list of nominations has seen more females compared to last year.  Probably because of the lockdown that has lasted for more than a year, there is no award for Best Club/Venue for Jazz.  Also, the category of Best International Jazz Album/Artist has been replaced by the Best International Jazz Collaboration.  As has been the case since the inception of MJA, most of the nominees are very young with a good number of those under the age of 30.

Nominees for Best Jazz Album are Linda Sikhakhane – An Open Dialogue, Asher Gamedze – Dialectic Soul, Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane – iHubo Labomdabu, Linda Tshabalala – Convergence Bekezela Siyeza, Tefo Mahola – First Offering and Deelee Dube – Trying Times.  Nominees for Best Jazz Song are Asher Gamedze – Siyabulela, Thembelihle Dunjana – Song and Living, Tanz Nero – 12th Avenue, Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane – Sabela Uyabizwa, Lefa Mosea – Mr Ngqawana andLinda Tshabalala – Nyatsi Ena.

Kofifi FM jazz presenter Ngwako Malakalaka

In the Best Contemporary Jazz Album, nominees are Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane – iHubo Labomdabu, Tanz Nero – Vintage, Fanie Dick – Asicule Sonke, Tefo Mahola – First Offering, Deelee Dube – Trying Times andThe Jazz Catz – Timeless.  The two nominations for Best Traditional Jazz Album are Jesse Mogale – Heritage From An African Continent and Asher Gamedze – Dialectic Soul.  Nominees for the Best Female Jazz Artist are Thembelihle Dunjana, Linda Tshabalala and Deelee Dube.  In the Best Male Jazz Artist, nominees are Lefa Mosea, Linda Sikhakhane, Asher Gamedze, Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane, Tanz Nero and Tefo Mahola.

Lefa Mosea, Linda Tshabalala, Deelee Dube, Tanz Nero, Tefo Mahola and El. Kasset Otbox are nominees in Best Newcomer Jazz.  In the Best International Jazz Collaboration, nominees are Linda Sikhakhane, Deelee Dube and The Jazz CatzLastly, nominees for Best Radio Stations Playing Jazz are Radio CCFM 107.5FM, Alex FM 89.1 and Kofifi FM 97.2   Tickets for this year’s MJA are selling for R80 and are available at and details of the link and the stream will be sent to those who have purchased their tickets.

For more information on the voting procedure and information related to the awards, please visit their website or drop them an email at  Like their Facebook Page which is Mzantsi Jazz Awards.  Follow them on Twitter @ZaJazzAwards and Instagram @zajazzawards.  Wishing all nominees best of luck and well done to MJA for pulling the 5th instalment of the ceremony in this very difficult year and most importantly for acknowledging, celebrating and rewarding the rich jazz culture in South Africa.