Penelope Radsma is a self taught jazz singer and radio presenter from Cape Town where she was born and raised.  “I am a Sagittarius.  I love animals, adventure, nature and history.  I enjoy reading books, going for walks and summer”, she told Jazz It Out.  Her childhood memories as a young school learner include arts, which she was passionate about, and spending time with her friends.

It was at high achool where she discovered jazz.  “I loved blues and the South African rock scene at the time”, she said.  Penelope always had an ear for golden oldies from the 50s and 60s.  Bands including Shakatak, Mango Groove, Tree63, musicians like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall and Pitch Black Afro.  Her love for music was shaped by different genres and musicians.

She always messed around with different instruments at school.  “I played a couple for the school band, but I only really realized that my calling as a vocalist late into my 20s”, she said.  Her parents always knew that she was musical but studied to be a special needs teacher instead.  “That, and history were my passions.  I was too shy to study music”, she added.

Penelope Radsma. Picture by Simon Shiffman

Penelope fell right into the deep end when she started singing again at the age of 28.  “I started out with brilliant musicians such as Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin, Brathew van Schalkwyk and Duncan Johnson”, she said.  These musicians taught her to be the musician who has graced numerous events, venues, and jazz clubs in and around Cape Town, leaving an indelible mark on the local jazz scene.

Vintage jazz is something she has been exposed to from a young age, and always felt a connection to.  She is known for her specialization in vintage jazz and her ability to embody the glamour and class of days gone by with an enchanting voice that transports audiences to a bygone era.  In collaboration with other well known jazz artists on the South African jazz scene, her performances are a delightful celebration of the golden era of jazz, blues and bossa nova, making her performances a truly unique experience among music enthusiasts.

She describes what she does as a calling.  “It’s not really something that one can explain very well.  I identify with it very much.  I love the lyricism and intelligent songwriting. Composers of that era were geniuses”, she elaborated.  Penelope gets different reactions from the audiences she performs for.  “I have seen people crying during performances because they are so moved by the nostalgia”, she added.  It also creates an ambience of class, sophistication and a stylish experience.  But what really moves her to continue is the love she has for music.

Doing what she loves. Picture by Damian Jagjivan

In addition to Cape Town jazz clubs, Penelope has performed at the Cape Town Jazzathon, UCT Jazz Festival, Cape Town Seafood & Jazz Racing Festival and more.  She is also a jazz presenter at Fine Music Radio (FMR).  Her three slots are “Penelope in Lounge” on Monday evening at 21h00 – 00h00, “In the Mood” on Friday at 13h00 – 14h00, and “Light Lunch” on Saturday at 12h00 – 14h00.  A radio career has always been a dream of hers, which she never thought would come true.  “I am loving every minute of being a jazz presenter at FMR”, she said.

For jazz to reach a bigger audience, she believes that being consistent with advertising and branding is very important.  Musicians need to wear different hats.  “Having talent is only one of those.  We need to promote consistently, and ensure that we deliver a professional product”, she stated.  This is how she thinks jazz audience builds trust in the jazz industry.  Penelope enjoys reading and studying history.  She likes to experience new things and is always busy looking for a new challenge.

Through the years, she has discovered that there is something to love about every musician.  Her personal favourites and influences (style, musical, and personal work ethic wise) are Willie van Zyl, Darren English, Brathew van Schalkwyk, Andrew Ford, Gary Deacon, Michael Franks, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, Anita O’DayBlossom Dearie, Julie London, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Karen Carpenter, Chet Baker, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Johnny Hartman, Paul Anka, Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto and many more.  Her Facebook Page is Penelope Radsma.  Follow her on Instagram @penelope_radmsa.