The 2021 Jazz & Classical Encounters Festival which is the 3rd edition featuring some of the best South African jazz and classical artists in a feast of contemporary music, takes place on Saturday December 4th, 2021. The one-day festival at Spier Estate Amphitheatre in Stellenbosch begins at 12:30 pm and will touch your soul, with a mix of jazz and classical icons for eight hours. This special edition of this must-see event and a second to be held during Covid, will pay tribute to a number of artists who have passed on in the last 12 months, honouring in particular the legendary soprano Sibongile Khumalo and renowned Cape Town pianist Andre Petersen. The event includes refreshment breaks and a chance to absorb the exquisite atmosphere on the estate.
Aymeric Péguillan. Picture by Lindo Mbhele
The organizer and co-producer of the Jazz & Classical Encounters Festival Aymeric Péguillan of Pegs Music Project has this to say about the festival he and his team are working around the clock to ensure it’s a resounding success: “Another very challenging year in many respects has passed, and one during which we unfortunately lost many amazing artists. Through their musical heritage, and the legacy they have left with us, we can rise again and celebrate them, and through them, spread a message of love and joy. This year, we will pay tribute to 2 immense jazz and classical artists and educators, the incomparable Mam Sibongile Khumalo, a beacon of excellence in both classical and jazz vocal performance, and the unique talent of pianist Andre Petersen. We hope that this very special 3rd edition of the festival will bring a big dose of joy and energy to our audience and followers.” Péguillan, who is also co-producer with Penny Lane Studios added: “We are excited to carry on in spite of the restrictions and limitations, and continue the journey started 2 years ago, where we represent the best of musical art forms that uniquely highlight our South African identity.”
The show will open with SAMA 2019 winner pianist Bokani Dyer and his trio, who will present “Neo Native” with Sphelelo Mazibuko on drums and Romy Brauteseth on bass. Dyer, a multi-award-winning Motswana-South African pianist, composer and producer, graduated with distinction from UCT and was awarded two international scholarships facilitating training and masterclasses with world-renowned musicians. He has recorded four jazz albums to critical acclaim and won numerous awards. Alongside his career, he also explores various other genres including electronic music. During his training he studied classical piano and played in a salsa band. These various influences have made him aware of the versality of the piano as an instrument. “In my own compositions, I have consciously allowed all of the music which I have encountered to flow into my music to create a new idea of ‘world music’ where there is music with no borders,” he explained. This led to an interest in exploring traditional styles of music from Africa, particularly percussion rhythms.
The Bokani Dyer Trio
2021 marks 5 years since the formation of the Bokani Dyer Trio featuring Romy Brauteseth and Sphelelo Mazibuko. Together, they have built a strong partnership resulting from the years of collaboration. The trio has travelled through Europe and the UK and most recently took part in the prestigious Piano Trio Festival held at the famed jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s in London. For the Jazz and Classical Encounters Festival, the trio will be picking up from where they left off, performing a varied selection of music from the ‘Neo Native’ album as well as newer material yet to be recorded and some works by other South African composers. Neo Native, an intimate, inviting listening experience and re-imagination of the sound of the standard piano trio. The trio have forged a sound in which all members are at home in the music allowing the freedom for new interpretations at every performance. It is evident from the music on Neo Native that the three musicians share a strong chemistry. “Neo Native is an idea about identity. How one chooses to identify and a question of what a person feels connected to as native. In the human experience beyond geography, where does the feeling of home reside?”, Dyer said.
Bokani Dyer will be followed by the amazing soprano Zandile Mzazi accompanied by pianist Juan Burgess. Together they will present work deeply connected with Sibongile Khumalo’s illustrious career. The Eastern Cape has gifted the country and the arts and culture industry with the sensational soprano opera musician, Mzazi. Probably more widely known and celebrated abroad, she hails from a musical family in Elliot, and has performed to the A-list audiences across the globe. Over and above getting recognition by local music bodies, Mzazi has won numerous competitions and awards for her musical genius in places such as Vienna (Austria), Germany, Italy and the USA. Mzazi contends that despite coming from a musical family and having been fortunate to be introduced to oratorio music as a child, she still had to put in a lot of hard work. Her mother was the biggest influence for her hard work. She says “I worked hard, sacrificed, didn’t have a normal life growing up as a child and didn’t have time to go play with dolls or other girls. It was practice at home and practice at school.” Her hard work has certainly paid off.
Next up will be one of the foremost violists in improvised, Elinor Speirs. She is a sought-after performer in New York and Boston’s jazz and avant-garde scenes. Originally from South Africa, Elinor began her career as a classical violinist in London, quickly realizing that a life in interpreted music was not a good fit for her explosive creative energy. It was only upon moving to New York, and later Boston, that she discovered her improvisational and compositional voice within the rigorous rhythmic and harmonic frameworks of contemporary and avant-garde jazz. Speirs will perform with her quintet featuring Brydon Bolton on bass, Brathew van Schalkwyk on piano, Jonno Sweetman on drums, and Mark Fransman on tenor saxophone. Inspired by John Coltrane’s multi-movement album, A Love Supreme, Elinor Speirs’ “Suite for Jazz Quintet” consists of four self-contained movements, Throwback, Bounce, Twelve Apostles and Four. Each is an original composition that strives to combine classical, jazz and avant-garde jazz idioms in new and fresh ways.
The fourth act is New York based South African born pianist, composer and producer Kathleen Tagg. A 2014 South African Music Awards nominee for best classical album, she has performed on four continents with a host of leading musicians, and the breadth of her collaborations defines her multifaceted career. In the past decade, Tagg’s work has focused on identity, ideas of connection and sound exploration. She created her own unique language at the piano, made up of techniques she developed and experimented to expand the piano into a full electro-acoustic orchestra. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the 92nd St Y and Symphony Space in New York, but is equally at home in non-conventional spaces and theatrical settings. Her performances and numerous recordings range from classical to world music, musical theatre to her own music mixing improvisation with fully realized scores. She holds the Helen Cohn Award as outstanding doctoral graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, and degrees from Mannes College and the University of Cape Town. Tagg has performed throughout North America, Europe, Southern Africa, China and India and her recordings have been featured in film and television.
Kathleen Tagg. Picture by Colette Y Benjamin
For the past six years, she has toured on four continents with David Krakauer in acoustic and electric configurations. In 2017, she and Krakauer created “Keepers of the Flame”, an evening-length theatrical music event for Poland’s Borderlands Foundations’ annual Misterium Mostu Festival (Mystery of the Bridge). In 2019 they created a concert-length immersive concert experience with video designer Jesse Gilbert for the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, with Kathleen acting as dramaturg, co-creator and producer. Tagg has produced all of her own albums – from classical and classical-crossover albums to her 2016 album “Where Worlds Collide” with South African jazz pianist Andre Petersen. On the new “Breath & Hammer” album with Krakauer, she has created an album out of tens of thousands of samples of her and Krakauer playing: what Krakauer refers to as “a medieval tapestry the size of an apartment, made up of fingernail sized samples.” Following her two decades of work with singers, she created and curated concerts celebrating new work by living composers in California at SongFest at Colburn from 2014 – 2016. She also produced countless events, including a series of benefit concerts for the ACLU featuring luminaries such as Abraham Inc, Marc Ribot and members of the Silk Road Ensemble.
The festival will end on a high note with the return to the stage after 2 years of absence from one of the leading jazz artists in South Africa, the New Brighton born trumpeter Feya Faku. New Brighton born trumpeter Feya Faku started playing music informally at a young age and got help from local musicians. He then enrolled at the University of Natal to study with Darius Brubeck. It is there in Durban, that his career blossomed. He, together with Zim Ngqawana, Melvin Peters and Lex Futshane formed a band that supported all South African great musicians who came to perform at the Rainbow Jazz Club and restaurant. In the late 80s, Faku started touring the world with artists such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, Mankunku Ngozi, Sylvia Mdunyelwa and many more. He has recorded 6 albums under his name as leader and has featured on many others with artists around the world.
Feya Faku. Picture by Siphiwe Mhlambi
Faku’s quintet with pianist Andre Petersen, bassist Chantal Willie Petersen, drummer Kesivan Naidoo and saxophonist Buddy Wells was one of the bands closest to Faku’s heart. Playing with Andre pushed Faku to play at the highest level. Andre was one of the greatest accompanists and never got in the way. The passing of Dre Petersen, as he was known to many, has left a big hole in Feya’s heart. The set that Faku will perform with his quartet at the 3rd instalment of Jazz and Classical Encounters will be dedicated to Andre Petersen. He will perform with Bokani Dyer on piano, Shane Cooper on bass and Ayanda on drums. Feya will be releasing 2 CDs which he recorded in 2021 in Switzerland after a long period of not playing music due to ill health. One with a sextet and one in duo/trio format, recordings which he dedicated to Sibongile Khumalo and Andre Petersen.
Accommodation is available in Spier’s signature rooms – these upstairs rooms are tastefully appointed and have large comfortable beds and original artworks. The en suite bathrooms incorporate a large bath and a separate shower. In keeping with their sustainability ethos, mini bars are energy-efficient and showerheads water-wise. The room will include Full English Breakfast served in the hotel restaurant. The Spier Wine Farm Amphitheatre is located at Total Lyneboch, R310 Baden Powell Dr, Lynedoch, Stellenbosch.
For more information on the festival schedule and ticket prices , visit https://www.quicket.co.za/events/922296-2nd-jazz-classical-encounters-at-spier-2020/ or https://qkt.io/bVRCPv. The following websites will also have information about the festival and accommodation. These are www.quicket.co.za, www.spier.co.za and https://pegsmusicproject.co.za. There is also a Facebook Page which has images and information on the previous editions of the festival, as well as regular updates on the preparations for this year’s edition https://www.facebook.com/jazzandclassicalencountersspier.