After an absence that has been felt by festinos and tourists, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) makes a welcome return since 2019.  It will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 May, which is a temporary departure from its usual March slot.  The announcement was preceded by teasers the festival has been posting on its social media platforms.

Some of the changes Africa’s premier jazz celebration brings include four reimagined stages. Previously known as Kippies, Moses Molelekwa, Rosies, they will bear the names of Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald respectively, with a new outside stage Topaz, setting the scene for a sparkling showcase of both seasoned maestros and rising stars from across the globe.  Those that want to learn from seasoned practitioners in the field of music will be pleased to know that masterclasses will be part are festival programme.

Kokoroko. Picture by CTIJF

The first list of artists the CTIJF has announced is made of Matt Bianco, Kokoroko, and The Yussef Dayes Experience who are from the United Kingdom.  The rest of the lineup is made of South African artists.  These are Nduduzo Makhathini Trio featuring Omagugu Makhathini, Mandisi Dyantyis, Bokani Dyer, Billy Monama, Zoë Modiga, Carlo Mombeli & The Prisoners of Strange, Benjamin Jephta, and Kujenga.

Dayes (UK) is a producer, composer and drummer based in South London renowned for his electrifying performances and technical prowess behind the drums.  He developed an ear for musical styles which was largely influenced by growing up in a musically experimental household.  Yussef has made several collaborations including United Vibrations and acclaimed duo Yussef Kamaal, whose album “Black Focus” became a defining work of contemporary music.  Through his own imprint Cashmere Thoughts, he has embarked on a string of solo releases and collaborations.

Trumpeter, vocalist and composer Mandisi Dyantyis (SA) is known for performing in sold out shows and a memorable free concert he did at V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.  In 2021, he was the only South African artist chosen to perform on International Jazz Day.  His debut album “Somandla” (2019) signaled the arrival of a future legend and was followed by his 2022 release “Cwaka”, which won him the 2022 SAMA Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album.  Through his music, he raises socio economic and political issues which affect ordinary South Africans and brings them to the fore.

Bassist Benjamin Jephta. Picture by Hymie Sokupha

Cape Town born and raised bassist and composer Benjamin Jephta (SA) will present his latest project “Born Coloured, not Born-Free” (2023).  He released his first two albums “Homecoming” (2015) and “Evolution of an undefined” (2018) much to critical acclaim. Through this recording, the UCT music graduate reflects on his experience as a so-called Coloured in post-Apartheid, democratic South Affrica.  He dissected his experience and created music centred around important themes.  The themes explored in this deeply personal project include ‘transformation’, ‘the Coloured identity’, ‘the Coloured and black relationship’ and ‘the Coloured mentality’.

Virtuoso pianist Nduduzo Makhathini (SA) will be leading his trio that will feature vocalist Omagugu Makhathini.  He has made several performances at the CTIJF, including a performance with an ensemble led by the late icon Zim Ngqawana.  Makhathini is known for paying homage to those musicians that had an influence in his career such as Bheki Mseleku, Abdullah Ibrahim, John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner.  The uMgungundlovu born and raised Makhathini released 8 albums before recording with US based Blue Note where he released “Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworld” (2020), “In the Spirit of Ntu” (2022) and is scheduled to release his third album with the renowned label in 2024.

Another musician from uMgungundlovu that will showcase her talent is vocalist Zoë Modiga (SA) who is an incredible live performer.  With a foundation in classical and jazz training, she crafts a unique sound that explores themes of identity, storytelling, and the human experience while maintaining the core of African culture.  This will not be her first appearance at the festival.  Zoë has two brilliant albums “Yellow: The Novel” (2019) and “Inganekwane” (2020).  She creates a distinct sound to communicate a modern, evolving sound without losing its essence.

Guitarist Billy Monama. Picture by CTIJF

Billy Monama (SA) is guitarist who decided to narrate stories of fellow guitarists, their styles of play, and mostly their genres ranging from Marabi to Mbaqanga, Maskandi and many others.  His musical journey began in 1997.  He has collaborated with artists such as Themba Mkhize, Abdullah Ibrahim, Sibongile Khumalo, Victor Ntoni, Mbongeni Ngema, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Dorothy Masuka, and Abigail Kubheka.  His debut album “Rebounce” was released in 2017.  Monama has released tutorial videos on South African guitar styles in 2020.

Multi award-winning pianist Bokani Dyer (SA) surprised his fans through his latest recording “Radio Sechaba” (2023).  The project marks a departure from his previous instrumental work, incorporating vocals to convey his message more directly.  Radio Sechaba is interspersed with short musical interludes like “Amogelang” and “Spirit people” that serve as sonic signposts to our collective past, present and future.  The album sounds a hopeful note with “You are Home”, a gorgeous, layered piece that recalls West African blues in its eloquent call to all of us.

Matt Bianco (UK) has gone through a lot of phases since their formation by vocalist Mark Reilly in 1982.  The band’s name suggests that Matt Bianco is a personal name, but Matt Bianco is a fictitious character they invented from the spy, secret agent world that laid the concept for their music and imagery.  In their debut album “Whose Side Are You On”, they hired Polish vocalist Basia Trzetrzelewska, whose arrangements gave it a jazzy dimension.  They have since made other recordings, roping in certain individuals who are sought after musicians and producers.

Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners of Strange. Picture by CTIJF

Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners of Strange (SA) is an ensemble led by virtuoso bassist with a career spanning four decades.  Other members of the outfit are trombonist/vocalist Siya Makuzeni, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt and drummer Justin Badenhorst.  Enthusiasts can expect an electrifying performance from this ensemble whose members understand each other musically.  Mombelli has bridged gaps between genres, musicians and audiences.  He is currently a NRF Rated Associate Professor at the University of Witwatersrand.

Kokoroko (UK) is an outfit festinos will be thrilled to see showcasing its talent, as they were billed to perform at 2020 instalment of CTIJF, that was cancelled because of the Covid pandemic.  This ensemble comprises of Sheila Moses Grey on trumpet, Anoushka Nanguy on trombone, Ayo Salawu on drums, Onome Edgeworth on percussion, Duane Atherley on bass, Tobi Adenaike-Johnson on guitar and Yohan Kebede on keys and synthesizers.  In 2019, the Guardian named them “ones to watch” after their track “Abusey Junction” became very popular.  Their 2022 recording “Could We Be More” received a Mzantsi Jazz Award nomination in 2023.

Kujenga (SA) is a seven-piece Black improvised music outfit based in Cape Town.  The band’s name comes from Swahili, with the word meaning “to build”.  They released their debut album “Nationality” in 2019 and are set to release their sophomore album “In The Wake” in 2024.  “In The Wake” is a project that was written and recorded in response to some of the most challenging years faced by the band.  The album is an articulation of personal and systematic experiences which took place during the coronavirus pandemic.  More crucially, the project sets its focus on assessing the kind of world which could place us in such predicaments.

General admission is R950 per night per person which gives access to Sapphire and Topaz stages. Surcharge tickets are in operation for Emerald (Rosies) and Ruby (Moses Molelekwa) at R30 per person per show. Surcharge is to manage the capacity in the venues which can only seat 1500 per show.  Tickets for this cashless event are available through Ticketmaster. For more information on the festival, please visit like and follow the Facebook Page Cape Town International Jazz Festival, follow @capetownjazzfest on Instagram and @CTJazzFest on X